Exploring the Westmoreland

On July 10, 2010, Ross Richardson first dived and confirmed the identity of the propeller Westmoreland. The Westmoreland is in an incredible state of preservation and has remained unseen by human eyes for over a century and a half. This virgin shipwreck is sitting upright and nearly completely intact in deep water. The depth and the steep walls of the uncharted hole she sits in seems to have protected her from currents and ice that have reduced most wrecks on the West shore of Michigan to nothing more that interesting board piles. Her bow points south and east, pointing down the course she was blown by the December gale in 1854.

The Westmoreland’s bow is completely intact and rises over 20 feet off the bottom of Lake Michigan. The vessels hogging arches are upright and completely intact and both tower 30 feet over the sandy bottom. The boiler and engine are also present, refuting the stories of her salvage in the 1870’s. The passenger railing is completely intact, save a small area on the port side stern that appears to have been damaged during the sinking by the falling smokestack. Just aft of the arches all four life boat davits can be seen completely intact, including the davit the flipped the large life boat and killed 17 of the passengers and crew.

At the very stern, on the passenger deck, is the auxiliary helm; a perfectly intact ships wheel. It’s in pristine condition considering the Westmoreland sank 7 years before the Civil War started and was on the bottom of Lake Michigan over a decade before president Lincoln was assassinated in Ford Theater.

The passenger deck appears to have collapsed on the cargo deck in the area between the hogging arches. Some of this damage may have been caused by the mast, which broke off about 8 feet above the passenger deck. Some of the upper works (houses) seem to have floated off when the Westmoreland foundered, while other parts of the deck houses seemed to be collapsed on the passenger deck.

Ross made the first dive alone.

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