The Michigan Shipwreck That Appears and Disappears Every Few Decades
Like the fictional town of Brigadoon that reappears for one day every one hundred years, the shipwrecked schooner The Contest seems to re-appear briefly every few decades. The skeletal remains of The Contest show up at Sylvan Beach on the Lake Michigan shore, about seventeen miles north of Muskegon. For the longest time, the wreck was believed to be that of the LC Woodruff that sank in 1878; but on closer inspection, it was determined that it is indeed the remains of The Contest.
According to Wisconsinshipwrecks.org, The Contest was constructed in the Michigan town of Holland in 1863 and was used for transporting dry goods and foods, cord wood, posts, stones, and railroad ties.
For thirty-four years The Contest made her Lake Michigan voyages until April 16, 1897. It was trying to dock in Kenosha, Wisconsin, but was thwarted by a severe northwestern gale that forced it ashore. With no crew lives lost, The Contest was taken to Milwaukee for a damage inspection. It was discovered that “her hull was badly twisted and her forward planking badly damaged”.
Not wanting to pay for damages , the owners said 'the heck with it' and decided to scrap it in a shipwreck graveyard on Jones Island. So how did it get back to Michigan?
First of all, Jones Island was completely re-developed beginning in 1919 and it's believed many of the old shipwrecks were towed out, blown up, and ripped apart. But what about The Contest? Did somebody forget about it and it drifted out into the lake...or was it set adrift on purpose? Whatever happened, The Contest seemed to have a mind of its own, determined to get back to Michigan where she was 'born'.
She set aground on Michigan's Sylvan Beach where the high winds and sand dunes quickly covered her up from view. The ship has been recorded as being uncovered only a few times: 1942, 1974, and 2018. Satellite photos show that it once again has gone back into hibernation, buried in the sand, completely covered up. Oh, it's still there, but you'll have to wait a few more decades before it magically re-appears.....like Brigadoon.
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