Great Lakes Shipwrecks

Latest update April 14, 2019 Started on March 4, 2019

It's estimated that 25k maritime disasters lie at bottom of the Great Lakes. Only 8% of these shipwrecks have been uncovered. Great Lakes exploration remains a dangerous business; the lakes are unpredictable, massive, and unforgiving.

March 4, 2019
Expedition's summary cannot exceed 240 characters


Did you know that the National Geographic Society is currently offering Explorers a variety of funding opportunities in the fields of conservation, education, research, storytelling, and technology? To learn more and apply for a grant click here.
If you're not interested in applying for a grant, click continue below
Supported by:

I have short-listed 7 shipwrecks in various regions across the Great Lakes. I plan to survey approximately 2-3 shipwrecks that are considered historically significant in various regions across the Province of Ontario. This will require me to conduct a couple campaigns during the summer, 2019. Below, outlines our short-list of shipwrecks:

  • Toronto Sligo;
  • Kingston Katie Eccles;
  • City of Sheboygan;
  • Wolf Islander;
  • Arabia;
  • Forest city;
  • Niagara 2.

The high number of shipwrecks, will require the permits to be processed in a timely fashion. The Toronto Sligo shipwreck will likely be the first site surveyed. During the shipwreck selection process, we would love to hear from you. If there're any shipwrecks you would like to explore, please share in the comments section below.

image-1 image-1

On Saturday March 23, I connected with Jennifer Bush and Chris Phinney. Chris was the former president at Save Ontario Shipwrecks. His expertise in Ontario marine heritage/archeology is second-to-none. Jennifer believes Chris would be a great asset to support the project and ensure a successful project delivery. Prior to the call, Chris was already familiar with the premises of the project. Once again, I expressed my interest in collaborating with SOS. I explained to Chris and Jennifer that this project would promote Ontario marine heritage. This is a core value at SOS. Since SOS believes in leaving artifacts found at the lake-bottom, the ROV technology would be a great way to support non-intrusive research. Chris understood the value of my research and quickly assessed the logistics. We began to discuss what was required from both parties. When would we be looking to head-out to the lake. What shipwrecks did we want to start surveying first. The excitement was brewing! Over the next few weeks, I willbe working closely with SOS to refine the scope-of-work (SOW). Stay Tuned!


Ryan Cant, Founder and CEO of EnviroDrone, participated in the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE Competition between 2016-2018. The $7 million Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE was a global competition challenging teams to advance deep sea technologies for autonomous, fast, high-resolution ocean exploration. The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE helped us to accelerate innovation for the rapid and unmanned exploration of the uncharted deep-waters; catalyze markets in ocean and freshwater exploration and discovery, sustainable resource development, and protection; illuminate the most mysterious part of the planet; and ignite the public imagination.

EnviroDrone was a semi-finalist in the competition. The teams innovative solution had to launch from shore or air and, with restricted human intervention, explore the competition area (at depths of 2000 and 4000 meters) to:

  • TRACK - A chemical or biological signal to its source;
  • IDENTIFY - Archaeological, biological, or geological features;
  • PHOTOGRAPH - A specific object; and
  • PRODUCE - A high-resolution bathymetric map.

The competition presented extraordinary physical challenges exploring such extreme deep-sea environments. Due to limited technological advancements and lack of investment, there was an incredibly high-costs associated for research and development in an immature market vertical. Since the competition, Ryan and his team have utilized what they learned to develop a solution that full-fills a realistic marine-market need. The skunk-works project is still secretive, but the impact the new solution will have is tremendous. Please follow our project as we prepare for the deep-freshwaters.


image-1 image-1

On Tuesday March 12, 2019, I had a phone call with Jennifer Bush from Save Ontario Shipwrecks ( SOS is dedicated to the study, preservation and promotion of Ontario marine heritage. SOS believes in leaving artifacts where found as opposed to preservation in museum collection storage facilities. SOS, was formed in 1981 to change that mentality. When diving really took off in the ’60s and ’70s, it was clear to preservationists that something needed to be done in order to prevent looting. In 1986, the Government of Ontario - Ministry of Culture, awarded SOS Core Funding grant, which developed a more structured fiscal operating system, and reorganized to manage day-to-day affairs in a more professional manner. In other words, the Government was no longer able/wiling to provincially fund shipwreck archeology.

The program success has allowed SOS to studies Ontario's marine heritage through historical and archival research, oral histories, side scan surveys and underwater archaeological investigations. SOS preserves Ontario's marine heritage through mooring program, site monitoring and documentation activities. The mooring program seeks to minimize anchor damage on sites which are regularly being visited by sport divers. In 2005 SOS created the Dive To Preserve program (,,) which promotes Marine Heritage preservation through Low Impact diving, site stewardship, and reporting of site conditions. SOS promotes an appreciation of Ontario's marine heritage through presentations to scuba training courses, public groups and dive clubs. SOS designs, produces and brings displays about marine heritage to underwater trade shows and conferences which highlight the need for all divers to use shipwreck sites responsibly and minimize the negative impact of their visit. SOS lobbies government to develop resource management initiatives which balance study, preservation and use.

I reached-out to Jennifer at SOS stating my interest in a collaboration. I explained my GLS project to 3D model select shipwrecks with the next generation of underwater robotic technology. Using a Robotic Underwater Vehicle (ROV), I would be looking to bring back life into these magnificent shipwrecks. I was looking to identify how we could collaborate in order to find ways to support one another. Jennifer agreed the project has great potential and was very interested. She agreed to arrange another call with Chris Phinney. Chris was the president of SOS prior to Jennifer and is actively diving various wrecks this summer. Jennifer believes that Chris might have some better insight and strategies on how to carry-out the project this spring-2019. Stay Tuned!

Expedition Background

The Great Lakes, located in North America on the border of Canada–US, form an important internal navigable channel in the Central North American region. Connecting the Atlantic Ocean through the Saint Lawrence River, the Great Lakes consists of five water bodies including Lakes Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario. Being the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world by total area, the Great Lakes have a history of marine transportation since the 17th century. However, traversing through these water areas isn’t easy and many ships in the past have succumbed and irrevocably lost in their swirling depths. Having the sea-like features such as rolling waves, strong currents and great depths, these water bodies, also known as inland seas, offers a difficult time for sailors when traversing through the region.

The Great Lakes are known for being temperamental and they’ve claimed anywhere between 6,000 - 25,000 ships, along with over 30,000 lives. Though most of these wrecks are lost to time, only 2,000 have been discovered. Many of the shipwrecks have fascinating stories behind their sinking, which makes visiting and 3D modelling the site even more intriguing. Unlike the ocean - with its corrosive salt water - the Great Lakes have a reputation of entombing the shipwrecks in an almost pristine condition.

The discoveries, between 5-120m underwater, are now being threatened by invasive species that are more destructive than the ravages of time. Some of the Great Lakes Shipwrecks are already beginning to collapse. The optimal window as far as getting images and videos of these shipwrecks, is starting to close. Mussels, zebra and quagga mussels, have invaded the Lakes - and the shipwrecks themselves. It's been happening since the late 1980's, but they've reached such numbers, archeologists fear the damage is irreversible. The fear is the invasive species may one day reduce these silent sentinels to monuments no longer recognizable.

For the expedition, we’ve selected 10 famous, and legend-worthy shipwrecks that found their way to rest beneath the freshwater waves. Using a variety of sources such a photos, videos, multi-beam sonars, and photogrametry, we will create accurate and immersive 3D visualizations of underwater sites. Follow our Expedition to the shallow depths of the Great Lakes. Exploration beging this spring - 2019.


Contribute to this expedition

Email Address
Number card
Postal Code

Review Your Contribution

You have chosen to contribute to expedition.

Confirm your details:

  • Name:

  • Email:

  • Last 4 digits:

Click below to proceed.

Thank You for Your Contribution!

Fundraising Details:


Tell us how raising these funds will impact your expedition
You're almost there, we just need to know three more things:
Is any part or component of your project funded by the National Geographic Society or a National Geographic Society Grant?
Is anyone on your expedition/project team affiliated, either currently or in the past, with the National Geographic Society?
Did you apply for a grant/funding from the National Geographic Society for this project?
You have a goal to raise by for:
How will raising these funds impact your expedition?
Is any part or component of your project funded by the National Geographic Society or a National Geographic Society Grant?
You’ve responded:
Is anyone on your expedition/project team affiliated, either currently or in the past, with the National Geographic Society?
You’ve responded:
Did you apply for a grant/funding from the National Geographic Society for this project?
You’ve responded:

Thank You

Fundraising is almost live!
Thank you for applying to collect contributions! We will review your request and follow up with next steps via email.
Feel free to email us if you have any questions.