PA Sea Grant and PA DCNR staff assess shipwreck site

Stories Told and Untold - Lying Beneath the Waters of Lake Erie

Marine archaeologists and historical researchers have identified as many as 132 sunken ships off the shores of Pennsylvania’s 76-mile Lake Erie coastline, with estimates suggesting the number could equal that of a naval fleet. All told, as many as 25,000 sunken ships may lie at the bottom of the five Great Lakes.

David Boughton, PA Sea Grant's Maritime Educator works with state and local agencies, scientists, and other marine archeologists & divers and volunteers to educate others about the shipwrecks that lie at the bottom of Lake Erie. Hey says: 

“We need to fully survey, record and understand what we have below our waters to properly tell the story, protect and conserve these maritime treasures, and honor the sailors who lost their lives to the unpredictably treacherous waters of the Great Lakes. Our team of volunteer divers are certified in survey techniques to measure and photograph the debris fields and characterize the location, so that each site can be cataloged into the state historic office inventory and be shared with future generations.”

Burbot in shipwreck wreckage - Jeremy Bannister photo credit

Great Lakes Shipwreck Exhibit (November 2017 - April 2018)  - Erie, PA  

Artifacts and a variety of shipwreck-related items were displayed at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, in Erie, PA from November 18, 2017 - April 2018. The "Great Lakes Shipwreck Exhibit" was supported by funding through the PA DEP’s PA Coastal Resources Management Program and by Penn State University, and hundreds of volunteer hours by the maritime divers and researchers of the Pennsylvania Archeology Shipwreck and Survey Team (PASST). 

The exhibit was developed by Pennsylvania Sea Grant, the Regional Science Consortium, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Erie Maritime Museum, and the Erie County Historical Society.

In addition to the above, PA Sea Grant would like to recognize and thank the following partners and volunteers: Divers World, SONS of Lake Erie, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission (PHMC), Dr. Ben Ford Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Erie Community Foundation, Erie Yacht Club, Erie Insurance, and Mercyhurst University.

Additional thanks to for their support! 

Learn more about the exhibit and check out the photo gallery! 



In a three-part radio interview series, PA Sea Grant’s David Boughton talks about the Great Lakes Shipwreck Exhibit and some of the fascinating stories of the ships on display. 


Great Lakes Shipwreck Exhibit Video Tour - filmed by Jeremy Bannister


Contact David Boughton













Main Office: Tom Ridge Environmental Center 301 Peninsula Dr., Suite 3 Erie, PA 16505 814-217-9011