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Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places

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Moonlight Shipwreck
7 miles east of Michigan Island, Lake Superior, Town of La Point, Ashland County
Shipbuilder: Wolf & Davidson
Date of construction: 1874

The remains of the schooner barge Moonlight rest in 240 feet of water east of Michigan Island in Lake Superior. Built in 1874 in the well-respected shipyard of Wolf & Davidson in Milwaukee, the Moonlight was built at the height of the era of sail-powered commerce on the Great Lakes. The Moonlight was constructed as a large schooner in the heyday of sail on the Great Lakes and achieved fame and recognition across the lakes as a beautiful sailing ship with fine lines and exceptional speed. Immortalized in song, she had a long and eventful career that saw the industrialization of the Great Lakes and the end of the golden age of Great Lakes sail. The Moonlight even saw service on the Atlantic. She served as the inspiration for the modern replica ship Denis Sullivan, named after the Moonlight's first master, and continues to hold a popular place in the culture and romance of Great Lakes sail as the archetypal Great Lakes windjammer.

In 1889 her topmasts removed and she was rigged as a schooner barge. The Moonlight was lost in a storm in September 1903, while hauling a cargo of iron ore out of Ashland, Wisconsin. The vessel most likely broke up near the surface, and the hull sections separated as the vessel sank. All of the crew was able to jump aboard the steamer Volunteer that had been towing the Moonlight.

Today, the Moonlight provides historians and archaeologists the unique opportunity to study construction techniques, and through remaining effects of the crew, shipboard life on a late nineteenth century Great Lakes schooner barge. Because of her remote location, extreme depth and light diver visitation, the Moonlight site has yielded a significant amount of information on large wooden schooner construction, and has vast potential to yield further information.

State and federal laws protect this shipwreck. Divers may not remove artifacts or structure when visiting this shipwreck site. Removing, defacing, displacing or destroying artifacts or sites is a crime. More information on Wisconsin's historic shipwrecks may be found by visiting Wisconsin's Great Lakes Shipwrecks website.


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