A dark seabed littered with ghostly secrets lies beneath the lapping waters of the Pacific Ocean, in the shadow of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has set out on a mission to find them all. They delve into the depths of the ocean with the help of underwater robots. The professionals make an amazing finding along the way that will send shivers down your spine.
Yes, there are a lot of historic treasures beneath the famous rust-colored bridge. NOAA’s remotely operated vehicles have been uncovering a fascinating story beneath the surface of San Francisco Bay. However, if you’ve ever walked through the famous landmark, you’re probably unaware of what’s lurking beneath your feet.
Of course, many people have crossed the bridge. Many people have taken photographs of it with their cameras as well. According to Frommer’s, more photos of San Francisco’s most famous structure are taken than any other bridge in the world. It’s not hard to see why. It divides the gap between the city and the vast Pacific Ocean, measuring nearly two miles in length. Its orange hue contrasts sharply with the blue sky of California.
One Of The Wonders Of The Modern World
The Golden Gate Bridge is so well-loved that it is named one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It’s right up there with engineering marvels like the Empire State Building as well as the Panama Canal. Despite the fact that so many people visit the site each year, few are aware of what lies beneath the surface. The NOAA team now wants to change that.
The professionals are up against a landscape that has credibility for keeping its treasures hidden in their quest to discover the world beneath the waves. In any case, when the Spanish conquistadors first arrived on the Californian coast, they sailed right past San Francisco Bay.
Spanish Discovered It During 18th Century
The bay was often shrouded in fog, and the Spanish didn’t discover it until the 18th century. Even when brave sailors made it through the strait, widely acknowledged as the Golden Gate, they were forced to navigate treacherous waters. Storms, strong winds, as well as swells, wrecked ships against the rocks, and thick clouds commonly distorted the view.
No Navigational Aid
A strong current often caught approaching vessels at the Golden Gate, jeopardizing them before they can even approach the safety of the bay. These early arrivals also appear to lack charts as well as other navigation systems, leaving them vulnerable to the Pacific Ocean’s wrath. Despite these obstacles, a settlement grew up around the natural harbor.
Rapidly Growing Population
The rapidly growing city of San Francisco, which was originally part of Mexico, was ceded to the United States in 1848. And after that, two years later, California had become the Union’s 31st state. The Gold Rush was in full swing at this point, and would-be prospectors from all around the country were migrating to the Western Frontier to try their luck.
With far too many immigrants coming by ship, San Francisco Bay recently identified itself as one of the world’s most important seaports. This city by the Golden Gate remained an important maritime resource even after the Gold Rush had passed. However, as the city grew, the narrow strait had become a challenge to overcome.
The main route into San Francisco prior to the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge was by boat. While the city’s coastal location aided its growth at first, its isolation eventually managed to prevent it from continuing to develop in line with the rest of the country. The officials had to take into account whether there was another way to transport passengers across the bay besides ferries.
It Was Deemed Impossible
Although a bridge may appear to be an ultimate option now, many people believed it would be impossible to build one across the mouth of San Francisco Bay at the time. And besides, the waters underneath the Golden Gate can reach depths of more than 330 feet, creating a turbulent channel with strong currents and tides. As if that weren’t bad enough, any building project would be hindered by the dense fog and strong winds that frequently afflict this part of the California coast.
Was It Feasible?
Some folks explained that even if a bridge could also be built in such a place, it would have to be a crossing unlike any other. To begin with, it would have to be tall enough just to enable even the largest ships to sail beneath it. However, following the city’s 1915 World’s Fair, the concept of this impossible structure gained traction.
Longest And Highest Structure Of Its Kind
After which, in 1921, engineer Joseph B. Strauss recommended a joint suspension as well as a cantilever bridge to link San Francisco to what is now Marin County, and Strauss’s concept was brilliant, as his layout was eventually refined into the Golden Gate Bridge we love and know currently. Mind you, and the strategy was ambitious. If built, the bridge would be the world’s tallest and longest construction of its kind.
However, in May 1937, the landmark was introduced to much hype and acclaim. It is still one of San Francisco’s best places to visit and also the city’s most iconic sight, more than 80 years later. According to the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District, it now carries well over 100,000 vehicles every 24 hours.
What’s Beneath It?
And, given how many people have walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, it may seem highly probable that there is still something unknown about it. However, it is correct. In the churning waters beneath, a number of hidden relics – some dating back to the 18th century – can be found. So, what are these deep-sea enigmas at the underside of San Francisco Bay?
NOAA’s researchers, as well as marine archeologists, on the other hand, know more than everyone else. They’ve gone to great lengths to reveal the mysteries surrounding the Golden Gate Bridge’s shadow. And these people are in a good position to do so. For one thing, the agency is in charge of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, a 330,000-square-mile marine preserve off the coast of California.
NOAA is also responsible for overseeing our planet’s oceans as well as waterways as a government agency. Monitoring the seabed for anything out of the ordinary is a part of this mission. In the deep ocean, this procedure can occasionally uncover different species or complex organisms that are largely undiscovered.
What’s To See Down There?
However, there could not really possibly be anything unanticipated lurking in the Golden Gate’s well-traveled waters? Yes, of course. It turns out that there is a chance. Several ships have perished in the treacherous currents that sweep through the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and along the San Francisco coast over the years. Even today, NOAA is still discovering its long-forgotten wrecks.
Searching For Something
In September 2014, a group of researchers set out to conduct a survey in the measure of the ocean just west of the Golden Gate Bridge. They had identified eight areas deserving of even more investigative process after poring over sonar scans of the area. And, to their surprise, four of these locations appeared to have exactly what they were searching for: shipwrecks that had been lost for many years beneath the waves.
How Was It Hidden?
After that, the team had to use a remotely controlled vehicle (ROV) to examine each of the sites one by one. They also made some truly incredible discoveries, which have added a number of truly fascinating chapters to the Golden Gate story. What happened to these sunk ships, though? And how have they managed to stay hidden in plain sight for so long?
The Noonday, it appears, was the oldest of the shipwrecks uncovered during NOAA’s September 2014 mission. And, believe it or not, this clipper fell south in 1863. The ship, which was abandoned over from the Gold Rush, was still transporting men and cargo to the California coast long after the prospectors had decided to give up.
The Noonday had been coming towards the end of its more than four-month voyage from Boston to San Francisco when it made its tragic final trip. The ship, however, hit a rock and immediately started taking on water just as it approached the city. Even though everyone on board managed to escape with their lives, the ship and its valuable cargo were eventually sunk beneath the waves.
The initially unexplored outcrop that triggered the sinking was dubbed Noonday Rock, in a more or less macabre twist. However, while the name of the ship would be remembered, the exact location of the wreck would be forgotten over time. Despite attempts of some of the Noonday’s crew, the cargo was also lost.
At least, that was just the case until the 2014 NOAA survey. An NOAA volunteer examining sonar scans of the seabed discovered something else in the depths that happened to be about the same size as the Noonday. Perhaps better, this unknown object was found near the rock that bears the name of the sunk ship. Researchers discovered the outline of a clipper ship after using an ROV to start exploring the site.
“Noonday Is There”
Although no actual remains were discovered, the team is optimistic that they have discovered Noonday’s final resting place. “Noonday is there. The signal is very clear. But there’s just nothing sticking above the seabed.” NOAA’s James Delgado notified the Associated Press at the time.
The wreck of the S.S. Selja, a steamer that sank in 1910, was also discovered by the NOAA team over the same survey. The ship had plied the trade routes between Asia and the Pacific Northwest, transporting goods from the United States for sale in China and Japan. And when the Selja set sail from Portland, Oregon, it was loaded with its usual cargo of timber and flour.
The ship, on the other hand, would not get very far this time. It rounded Point Reyes west of San Francisco, 700 miles south of Portland, and collided with another steamer, the S.S. Beaver. The ship eventually sank in 180 feet of water as a result of the chaos that ensued. The collision also claimed the lives of two crew members.
Following the accident, Selja’s master, Olaf Lie, tried suing the Beaver’s owners, declaring that the other vessel was to blame for the mishap. The court, on the other hand, found that Lie was at fault and that he had been driving all too fast for the low visibility conditions. Despite the fact that the incident caused quite a stir, the steamer’s wreck was neglected until it was finally discovered by NOAA west of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Another Discovery Along The Way
On the same expedition, NOAA discovered two more wreck locations, though more study is necessary to identify the precise identifications of the sunken ships. One of the vessels, according to reports, was also in bad condition, with its bulk obscured by various fishing nets. The other seemed to be an unspecified tugboat, and it seemed to be in excellent condition.
Why, though, are there so many shipwrecks beneath the Golden Gate Bridge? Part of it is due to the huge number of commercial vessels that used to pass through the strait. “We’re looking at an area that was a funnel to the busiest and most important American port on the Pacific Coast,” Delgado told Live Science in 2014.
In fact, the water bodies of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, as well as the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, are estimated to contain around 300 crashes. As per records, the San Agustin – a Spanish galleon that sank after colliding with the shore in the 16th century – seems to be the oldest. The Puerto Rican, on the other hand, was a tanker that blew up spectacularly off the coast of San Francisco in the 1980s.
S.S. City Of Chester
Although many of the wrecks are still to be explored by researchers, NOAA is working to change that. For instance, just a few months before the September 2014 survey, researchers made some other startling discoveries. They had discovered the wreck of the S.S. City of Chester, which had already been lost for well over a century, almost just underneath San Francisco’s popular bridge.
16 Lives Have Vanished
The steamship, destined to Eureka, California, had barely reached the port in San Francisco when the tragedy happened. It crashed with the R.M.S. Oceanic at the harbor’s opening. Then after a hole was ripped in the port side of the City of Chester, it started sinking within only six minutes, killing 16 people.
They Found It
The City of Chester’s wreck lay in obscurity for 120 years, despite the fact that it had fallen significantly within striking distance of the Golden Gate. Then, in April 2014, NOAA confirmed that it had located – as well as explored – the tragic vessel’s wreckage. And, if the agency’s sonar images are to be believed, the ship has held up remarkably well over time.
S.S. City Of Rio De Janeiro
NOAA also unveiled the first photos of one of the most famed crashes that litter this area of the Californian coast in the latter part of 2014. The steamer S.S. The city of Rio de Janeiro sank near the Golden Gate Bridge location in February 1901. However, according to reports, the morning of the tragedy was foggy, making it difficult for the captain to explore through the narrow passage.
Titanic Of The Golden Gate
There were 210 people on board the doomed ship, many of whom were immigrants hoping for a fresh beginning in the United States. Unfortunately, more than half of those on board died when the City of Rio de Janeiro collided with rocks and capsized into the freezing Pacific Ocean. Many people’s dreams of a better beginning came to an end on the ship known as the “Titanic of the Golden Gate.”
They Got An Image
Rio de Janeiro’s wreckage now lies beneath nearly 290 feet of water, near where the Golden Gate Bridge once stood. However, thanks to NOAA’s efforts, its surreal resting place has been discovered. Researchers have been able to create an interesting image of how the steamer looks now using sonar and 3D modeling techniques.
And that’s not all, as NOAA discovered yet again another shocking secret in October 2015. A team sent down ROVs that month to investigate the unknown tugboat wreck that had been discovered a year before. They were able to determine that the remains of the USS Conestoga had vanished in 1921 after examining its features.
The Conestoga was en route to Samoa, where she’ll be serving as a station ship after a career transporting supplies and weapons all through World War I. The ship and its 56 crew members simply disappeared after leaving Mare Island, about 20 miles north of San Francisco. The place of the lost vessel managed to remain a fascinating mystery for nearly a century.
Questions Had Been Answered
After some investigation, the NOAA team was able to solve the mystery. That isn’t to say the waters beneath the Golden Gate Bridge have revealed all of their secrets. If the specialists are to be trusted, it is far from the case. What else will ROVs find off the coast of San Francisco that has gone undetected? The only way to know for sure is to wait and see.
You don’t have to become a member of NOAA to make an amazing underwater discovery. Take it from Kim McDaniel, who was walking along the Lake Michigan shore near her Muskegon home. She was curious to see just what damage the fierce storm the day before had induced. But what McDaniel uncovers when he emerges from the sand is incredible. She calls the Coast Guard to investigate because it is so unexpected.
Storms are nothing new to those who live along Lake Michigan’s shores, nor to the sailors who steer its waters. Exceedingly wild weather frequently crosses the lake in the fall, and high winds can stir up waves as high as 15 feet, starting to cause property damage along the shoreline. This poor weather can also endanger ships on the water.
That Particular Storm
However, the storm the day before Thanksgiving 2019 was a doozy. Winds gusted up to 40 mph, and power outages forced neighborhood businesses to close early. On Lake Michigan’s western shore, South Haven, only around 60 miles south of Muskegon, was forced to close its beach because the flood risk was also too high.
Record-Breaking Water Level
In fact, there had been some fierce weather in October as well. These storms had caused severe erosion along Lake Michigan’s western shore, which had taken the brunt of the high winds and rain. The simple truth that water levels across the Great Lakes, such as Michigan, had approximately managed to reach record-breaking highs for the time of year didn’t help things.
She Found Something Interesting
It’s not exactly a surprise, then, that McDaniel, a Muskegon native, went to check out the storm damage near her home on Thanksgiving. The woman found a different pattern near the water’s edge as she strolled along the lakeshore. McDaniel couldn’t figure out what this strange object was, but she knew she’d never seen that before. We’ll return to the discovery later, but first, let’s learn something about Lake Michigan along with some of the mysteries that lie beneath the surface.
The Four Great Lakes
Lake Michigan is one of North America’s five Great Lakes, as you may recall from elementary school geography. Because Michigan is connected to Lake Huron by a narrow channel known as the Straits of Mackinac, there are really only four great lakes in total. As a result of their correlation, the two lakes form a single large body of water. In regular usage, that being said, Michigan and Huron are distinct.
Michigan is the only Great Lake that does not have a section in Canada. It is bordered by four states in the United States: Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois. As we’ve seen, McDaniel was on the Michigan State section of the lakeshore when she noticed the mysterious object in the water.
The Hopewell Indians
The Hopewell Indians, who lived in the area until around A.D. 800, were the first people to visit Lake Michigan. Following that, the region was occupied by a variety of other North American indigenous peoples. Europeans first arrived at Lake Michigan in the 1630s, most likely in the form of a Frenchman named Jean Nicolet. To impress the locals, he is said to have dressed in bright colors and brandished two pistols.
A Transport Link
Lake Michigan had become a major transport direct connection for people, and goods’ movement as European settlement accelerated in the late-17th century. It was part of a system of waterways that stretched all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, it had a variety of vessels plying its waters from the beginning.
Growing In Commercial Importance
As the commercial importance of Lake Michigan grew in the nineteenth century, cities and ports along its shores, such as Chicago, Green Bay, and Milwaukee, began to flourish. Indeed, prior to the Civil War, Chicago shipped 90% of the grain it received eastwards across the lake. Even after the railroads arrived, 50% of grain was still transported across Lake Michigan.
As a result, shipping was a significant activity. Despite the fact that Michigan is an inland lake, ships frequently encountered difficulties due to unpredictable weather patterns and storms that appear out of nowhere. The list of ships that have sunk on the lake is extensive, as is the list of sailors and passengers who have perished over the years.
A Luxurious Passenger Ship
In 1860, one of the most tragic events on Lake Michigan, and indeed on all of the Great Lakes, occurred. The P.S. (Paddle Steamer) Lady Elgin, a timber-built vessel with side paddles powered by steam engines, was involved. She was built in 1851 in Buffalo, New York, and was said to be one of the most luxurious and graceful passenger ships on the Great Lakes.
Lady Elgin appears to have become a vessel vulnerable to mishaps. After an altercation with a rock in 1854, she sank but was fixed and put back in line. In 1857, a fire broke out onboard and the preceding year, and she sank off the coast of Copper Harbor, Michigan. Eventually, that year, she became stranded on a reef in Lake Superior.
But, in comparison to what happened to Lady Elgin in the early morning hours of September 8, 1860, every one of these mishaps was minor. She had set sail from Milwaukee on September 6th, bound for Chicago. Members of the Irish Union Guard, an anti-slavery militia group, made up about 300 of those on board. They went to political speeches in Chicago during the day, then returned to the ship in the evening to be entertained by a German brass band.
She Suffered More
The Lady Elgin steamed across Lake Michigan while the passengers enjoyed the stirring brass band music. Then, out of the darkness, the Augusta, a schooner from Oswego, slammed into the Elgin’s port side. The spar at Augusta’s bow, the bowsprit, was damaged. The Lady Elgin, on the other hand, suffered far more serious consequences as a result of the collision.
She Was Left Behind
The impact, which occurred ten miles from shore, caused the Lady Elgin to sink far below water’s surface. The captain of the Augusta, presumably trusting that the Elgin had not been seriously damaged, continued on to Chicago, leaving his stricken victim in his wake. This action was going to be disastrous.
They’ve Done The Necessary Actions
Captain Jack Wilson, the captain of the Elgin, quickly realized that his ship was in serious trouble on board. Indeed, after his first mate awoke him, the two men examined the damage and quickly concluded that their ship was doomed to sink. They started taking whatever steps they could.
Captain Jack Wilson
Wilson and his crew attempted to raise their ship higher in the water to prevent water from entering the hull through the gash. They tried to push live cattle, various cargo items, as well as other items overboard to lighten the ship. Mattresses were even used to try to plug the hole. However, it was all for naught. The Lady Elgin broke up and started sinking after only 20 minutes.
It Wasn’t The End
Surprisingly, for the majority of the crew and passengers, that wasn’t the end of the story. Brendan Baillod of the Wisconsin Underwater Archeology Association described what happened after the ship went down to Milwaukee’s WTMJ-TV in 2016. “People started spilling into the lake, clinging to debris wherever they could find it,” Baillod said.
300 People Died
“Most of the people on the Lady Elgin survived the two-hour ride to shore on the debris,” Baillod continued, “but they did not survive the huge surf of the shoreline.” Only 98 people survived the shipwreck and were rescued. According to several reports, more than 300 people died, though Baillod thinks the figure is closer to 400. It’s challenging to be certain because there was no accurate passenger manifest.
Worst Maritime Disaster
The crashing of the Lady Elgin has to be the worst maritime accident in the Great Lakes history in terms of loss of life. “People washed up all along the entire shoreline of the lake,” Baillod said of the disaster’s aftermath. The Lady Elgin crash was uncovered in 1989 off the coast of Highwood, Illinois, after being lost for 128 years.
S.S. Francisco Morazan
Thankfully, no other shipwreck on Lake Michigan has claimed as many lives, but many more have sunk over time. The cargo ship S.S. Francisco Morazan sailed away across Lake Michigan from Chicago as recently as 1960. The ship lost its bearings in a snowstorm and came to a stop just 300 yards from the shore. Fortunately, the staff of 13 and the captain’s pregnant wife have all been rescued, despite the fact that the ship was a total loss.
Not New To Disasters
As a result, Lake Michigan has seen its fair share of disasters. In fact, due to modern technology as well as merchant shipping that is constructed to a much higher standard than it used to be, shipping disasters are much rarer in modern times. However, remnants of past disasters occasionally emerge from the lake’s constantly changing waters as well as mud banks.
What Did She See?
That takes us back to Kim McDaniel, a Muskegon resident. It’s past time for us to learn more about what she saw just off the coast near her home on Thanksgiving. She had gone for a walk the day before to check on the damage caused by a huge storm when she noticed a strange apparition in the water, as we’ve seen.
Favorite Spot Of Families And Dog-Walkers
McDaniel was strolling along Lake Michigan’s Norton Shores’ scenic mile-long sandy beach at Muskegon’s Norman F. Kruse Park when she noticed something peculiar in the water. Dog walkers, as well as families with small children, frequent the park. Picnickers, as well as families, flock to the scenic spot in the summer.
Remains Of A Ship
McDaniel can only see a dark shape peeking out from the water initially. Surprisingly, closer inspection revealed that it was definitely an old shipwreck that had shown up just above waves, ghostlike. The haunting remnants of a timber-hulled ship had been exposed by erosion caused by the previous day’s high winds as well as turbulent waves.
Hidden For Years
Shipwrecks aren’t uncommon in Lake Michigan’s waters, as we’ve seen, but this one had been hidden for years until the recent storm revealed it. In the circumstances, McDaniel decided that alerting the Coast Guard was the best course of action. The next morning, she dialed the Grand Haven station of the United States Coast Guard.
They Rushed To See it
“We were shocked to see this boat that was not there the day before,” McDaniel later told ABC affiliate 13 On Your Side. After she informed the Coast Guard of her discovery, the wreck was reported to local historians. Divers have now proceeded to the lake to examine the sunken wreck more closely.
They Investigated It
John Hanson, president of the West Michigan Underwater Preserve, was one of those who braved the frigid waters of Lake Michigan to examine the wreck’s decaying timbers. That group collaborates with the state of Michigan to investigate and protect shipwrecks and other archeological sites along the lake’s western coast.
He Measured It
Hanson evaluated the wreck and discovered that it was 88 feet long and 21 feet wide. He estimated that the vessel was a cargo-carrying barge created in the nineteenth century. “The wreck is about one-third covered up now,” Hanson told Fox News. “Wave action has resulted in the loss of a few boards.”