The Great Lakes Historical Society

Peachman Lake Erie Shipwreck Research Center

The Peachman Lake Erie Shipwreck Research Center (PLESRC) is located on the grounds of The Great Lakes Historical Society, in the annex building behind the Inland Seas Maritime Museum. It is a user-friendly facility where researchers, students, and individuals with an avocational interest in shipwrecks and other maritime topics can use the resources within PLESRC for research purposes. Included within the Research Center is the leading-edge technology of an ArcView GIS system. Simply put, ArcView takes latitude and longitude positions and displays the ship location. It is the first time this process has been used to chart ship locations in Lake Erie. Linking with the traditional materials in PLESRC is the Clarence S. Metcalf Great Lakes Maritime Research Library.

The Center also serves as a focal point of organizing maritime archaeology workshops, documenting Lake Erie shipwrecks, and disseminating shipwreck information to the general public and specific user groups. In addition, the PLESRC serves as the headquarters for MAST, the Maritime Archaeological Survey Team, Inc., which is an avocational group dedicated to the documentation of Ohio's underwater historic resources. Since its start, the PLESRC has added to its immense collection of Lake Erie shipwreck information. Features include individual folders for over 2200 wrecks in Lake Erie, Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, and the St. Clair River containing government documents, newspaper clippings, photographs, personal accounts, maps, and secondary sources, a library of over 300 publications relative to Lake Erie shipwrecks; and side-scan sonar images of shipwrecks in Lake Erie.

Estimates of shipwrecks in Lake Erie range from 1,400 to 8,000, while confirmed shipwreck locations only number around 270. In 1998, thanks to the underwater survey report compiled by MAST, the Adventure (1875-1903) was the first Lake Erie shipwreck registered with the state of Ohio as an underwater archaeological site (33ER481). Also in 1998, the first major artifact placed back on an Ohio shipwreck was the propeller of the Adventure. Divers originally removed the propeller in the 1960s, and it was discovered in a junk pile just days before it was to be turned into scrap.

Each year, PLESRC, GLHS, and MAST host a Nautical Archaeology Workshop. This workshop is open to all interested parties and is the only requirement for membership into MAST. The participants enjoy two days of lecture and hands on training. Topics covered include: the importance of nautical archaeology, ship construction, shipwreck documentation, and laws and ethics of shipwrecks. Participants learn shipwreck documentation and drafting by surveying the S.S. Vermilion, a dry land "shipwreck." Divers then put their new skills to practice by surveying a "wreck" at a local quarry.

Attendance at a lecture series workshop is one of the requirements for becoming a MAST member. Workshop participants are encouraged to join MAST to put their skills to work, although the lecture series is open to all registrants.

PLESRC and MAST have already surveyed the Adventure, W.R. Hanna, F.H. Prince, and The Craftsman. Based on the first three surveys, dive slates were produced by Sea Grant that describe the vessel in detail, cause of the wrecking and a site plan of the wreck today. (These cards can be purchased, as a set, at the Inland Seas Museum.) Archaeological reports have been published for the Adventure, W.R. Hanna, and F.H. Prince. Along with those three, a report detailing the shipwrecks around Kelley's Island is available for purchase.

PLESRC and MAST are currently working on a survey of the Dundee, a schooner that sank north of Cleveland on September 11, 1900. This schooner is one of the most complete wooden shipwrecks found in Ohio waters. Slates and reports will be published for The Craftsman and the Dundee within the coming year.

In 2005, GLHS/PLESRC along with MAST and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Office of Coastal Management (ODNR-OCM) won a Public Education and Awareness Award from the Ohio Historic Preservation Office of the Ohio Historical Society. Also in 2005, GLHS and PLESRC were awarded a Gold Award in the Audio Visual Category of the Ohio Museums Association 2005 Visual Communications Awards for their documentary entitled "Lake Erie Shipwrecks, Archaeology and The Craftsman".

To tour the PLESRC, or to become a volunteer, contact GLHS for an appointment. To become an active MAST member, visit the MAST website for additional information.

Carrie Sowden
Archaeological Director
(440) 967-3467, ext. 6

Recent news:

Fall 2009: Bradley A. Krueger has made a report on the progress during the 2009 season of surveying the Anthony Wayne shipwreck. Visit theAnthony Wayne webpage.

July 2008: The Great Lakes Historical Society is pleased to announce that the National Park Service, American Battlefield Protection Program has awarded the Society an $18,000 grant to survey the battle site and anchorage site of the Battle of Lake Erie, fought in 1813 in Ohio waters off Put-in-Bay.

Christopher Gillcrist, Executive Director of The Great Lakes Historical Society, stated that "the Battle of Lake Erie is one of the most important naval engagements between 1776 and 1941 in U.S. history. Our archaeological survey will help discover and identify any physical remains of the battle, hopefully in preparation for a major historical reevaluation of the battle's significance in light of its coming bicentennial celebration in 2013."

Carrie Sowden, Archaeological Director of The Great Lakes Historical Society, will lead the investigation in collaboration with the Cleveland Underwater Explorers, led by Dave VanZandt and Tom Kowalczk.

Work will begin in late August 2008, and will be completed next summer.

June 2008: The Great Lakes Historical Society and the Peachman Lake Erie Shipwreck Research Center partnered with Texas A&M; University to survey the wreck of the Anthony Wayne, a mid-19th century side-wheel passenger and cargo steamer discovered in Lake Erie. Read about the ship, its history, the sinking, and its survey, as well as view pictures and multimedia. Visit the Anthony Wayne webpage.
Read about the survey in the news:

August 22, 2006: The Great Lakes Historical Society, in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Office of Coastal Management, the Ohio Historical Society, and and the Cleveland Underwater Explorers (CLUE), recovered the bell from The Cortland, a recently-discovered shipwreck in Lake Erie. Over the coming months, preservation work will be performed on the bell while it is on display at the Inland Seas Maritime Museum. For more information, visit the Cortland page.

MAST Website (opens in a new window):


Site Map
480 Main Street, Vermilion, Ohio 44089, (440) 967-3467