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Shipwreck Hunters Look to Recover $20 Million Worth of Gold and Rare Whiskey Barrels From Ship That Sunk 169 Years Ago

Whiskey Raiders logo Whiskey Raiders 2/7/2023 David Morrow
Shipwreck © Provided by Whiskey Raiders Shipwreck

The sun rises over a choppy Lake Michigan as seen from Montrose Harbor on a cold and windy Jan. 27 in Chicago. Shipwreck hunters hope to salvage The Westmoreland, which sunk in Lake Michigan in 1854. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley)

Shipwreck hunters have their eyes on a ship at the bottom of Lake Michigan that sunk in the 1800s while transporting more than $20 million worth of gold coins and rare whiskey barrels.

The Westmoreland was lost in a storm on December 7, 1854, killing 17 people — thought to be half of the number onboard. The remainder of the crew are said to have reached the mainland and walked to Manistee, the nearest town, which was almost 40 miles away. The ship was missing until 2010, when its location was discovered nearly 200 feet deep in Platte Bay.

A permit is required to recover artifacts from Great Lakes shipwrecks, and shipwreck hunter Ross Richardson, who discovered the wreckage, is in talks to salvage the ship’s cargo.

“We are in the beginning stages of discussing a salvage operation to recover the whiskey casks and possibly other artifacts,” Richardson said, according to the Daily Mail. “The Westmoreland is an underwater museum, filled with perfectly-preserved relics from the 1850s, and preserving them for public display would be a worthy cause.

“She is one of the most intact and best preserved shipwrecks from the 1850s on the planet.”

According to Richardson, an unnamed regional distillery is “extremely interested” in recovering the whiskey barrels.

“The genetic makeup of corn was much different in 1854 and may have had a different taste to today’s corn,” Richardson said.

The Westmoreland was en route to Mackinac Island, carrying the whiskey and gold to soldiers. Richardson says the gold coins would sell for about a million dollars if melted down, but he believes they could go for more than $20 million if sold to coin collectors.

Salvaging the wreckage will be extremely challenging due to the freezing water temperatures, depth of the wreckage and the fact that the gold and whiskey is deeper in the wreckage, plus the deck is partially collapsed.

Still, Richardson believes the ship’s treasures will be uncovered — even if it doesn’t happen anytime soon.

“Eventually, yes. But, we are a long way, maybe decades, from making that happen,” Richardson said. “Only time will tell if the Westmoreland will share her secrets with us.”

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The post Shipwreck Hunters Look to Recover $20 Million Worth of Gold and Rare Whiskey Barrels From Ship That Sunk 169 Years Ago first appeared on Whiskey Raiders.

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