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THE WELLS BURT
Lake Michigan, IL
Lat: 41°57'46.54"N Lon: 87°24'33.44"W
Lake Michigan. I’d never dived a Great Lake before. I’m still shivering.

Five miles off Chicago, the Wells Burt, a 200-foot schooner that tragically sank in May 1883, rests in 30’ of water. Her story was very typical of Great Lakes shipping industry of the day. On the night of May 9, 1883 Captain Thomas Fountain was bringing his ship into Chicago’s port after a five-day journey from Buffalo. She was loaded heavy and low in the water, filled to the gills with a delivery of coal. As he approached Chicago a violent storm raged over the ship, stalling her just north of the city. So close! In short order the deck filled with water and she lowered in the waves. The whole massive vessel swamped and quickly sank, too quickly for the crew to organize any sort of rescue. The captain and ten sailors died that night in stormy Lake Michigan.

That would have been the end of the story had Valerie not found her. This dedicated woman, who describes herself as an underwater historian—she finds and researches wrecks in the Great Lakes—discovered the WB in 1988. It is an incredible discovery—so beautifully intact, a glorious and awesome sight that Valerie took me down to see. We filmed it all for “Cities of the Underworld.”
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