Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Preserve

William H. Barnum

Depth: 50′ to 75′
Dimensions: 219′ x 35′ x 21′
Cargo: Corn, from Chicago for Port Huron
Cause of Sinking: Ice damage
Built: 1873, Detroit Michigan by J.M. Jones
Date Lost: April 3, 1894
Construction: Wood
Propulsion: Steam, single cylinder, 2 boilers
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate

    Shipwreck:    N45° 44.708′   W084° 37.866′

 Bow Mooring:  N45° 44.707′   W084° 37.840′

Stern Mooring:  N45° 44.697′   W084° 37.899′


Built in 1873 in Detroit MI, the wood steamer William H. Barnum, plied the Great Lakes for more than 20 years before reaching her demise. She was under the command of the 29 year old Capt. William Smith, on his first voyage as master of the Barnum when she sank. The Barnum left Chicago harbor on April Fools Day 1894 loaded with corn for Port Huron. The Barnum left Chicago harbor along with 18 others ships, including the steamer Minneapolis, which sank the day before the Barnum. The heavy weather and grinding ice in the Straits proved to be to much for the Barnum and she started taking on water. The tug Crusader came to her rescue and tried to move her into shallow water, but her efforts were also halted by the ice. The Crusader took the crew of the Barnum and they watched her vanish beneath the ice and waves on the morning of April 3, 1894. No lives were lost.

Present Condition

The William Barnum now lies upright and with a mostly intact hull in 74′ of water, facing due east, 5.5 miles southeast of the bridge in Lake Huron.  The decks have fallen except for the bow area, where there are still penetration opportunities. The boilers and engine are also available for inspection.  The stern is jumbled as a result of her rudder being removed with the use of dynamite in 1969. Her propeller is still visible through the wreckage. The rudder can be seen in St. Ignace between the Ace Hardware and the city marina.

Mooring Buoy Status

The western, lighted buoy has been reinstalled for the 2023 season.  A small guideline is there to help you locate the wreck in poor visibility.  Another mooring with a small buoy is attached to the stem-post at the east end of the wreck.

Moorings are available from late-May to mid-September, the moorings make for easier location, safer diving and protect shipwrecks from damage from anchors and hooks.

Photos of the William Barnum

For an interactive 3D image by Ken Merryman, click HERE

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