SHIPWRECKS OF THE CHICAGOLAND AREA, THE MACK, WELLS BURT, LADY ELGIN

July 14, 2012

Wells Burt Shipwreck
 Chicago is famous with its shipwrecks as this was a city that exported a significant amount of grain from the great plaines back to other states out on the eastern coast and overseas for produce.  Chicago was considered a hub for importing and exporting steel grains and other goods for the nations people and economy.
Boiler wreck of the Silver Spray
 We went to visit a few wrecks out on the lake which was a nice day to get out and swim around a bit in the cool waters and enjoy some of Chicago's great historic shipwrecks.  Most of the shipwrecks are what some might consider be "Piles of Wood" as I have heard that term used by other divers, which a lot of them are severly broken up debris fields BUT the historic significance of these shipwreck still take me back to the late 1880s when these handcrafted vessels carried supplies people relied on and the families of the crew supported hands as they played a crutial but risky role that unfortunately costed some of their lives.  If your not much of a history buff, than its always a bit interesting to get a group of divers to perform a successful dive in the cold dark waters of the great lakes which can be a lot of fun in itself.
Boiler Wreck of the Silver Spray
 The Wells Burt is a rather intact shipwreck that sank in the 1880s and lies a few miles off shore off the north side beach in 30ft of water.  Its not that deep as it appears that it is a sand bar of sorts but the deck, railing, windlass, and other artifacts are in tact. The Mack was another shipwreck that we visited in 65ft. of water but this wreck is an artificial shipwreck which is a steel steamer and is pretty much in tact.  It is more of a play ground for divers and a good place to practice dive skills.  The Last Wreck we went to see is a shore snorkel out to the wreck of the silver spray.  This one sank in 1908 while carrying university of Chicago students as it hit the shoal on 43rd street beach.  From what I understand the Chef attempted to cook a meal for everyone so they would stay calm while the captain attempted to convice everyone that the ship was ok.  After an hour the crew caught on and took boats to the shore and the remaining crew abandoned the wreck while ice and waves destroyed the wreck over the next few years and the locals used the wood to build fires on the beaches.
Wells Burt

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