A recent storm has uncovered an unidentified ship that has rested beneath the high saline waters of Utah’s Great Salt Lake for more than a century.
The name or use of the ship has yet to be determined, but the wreckage has been described as an “old steel boat” that likely dates back to the turn of the 20th century. Stormy conditions on the lake revealed the shipwreck at the Great Salt Lake Marina, located just off the shoreline near the south end of the lake at Silver Sands Beach.
“Great Salt Lake storms can be ominous but also fascinating,” writes the Great Salt Lake State Park and Marina in a Facebook post, adding that boating on the lake has occurred since the 1880s. “Some of these boats experienced tragic endings only to be buried in the sand by storms, but storms can also uncover them.”
Utah’s Great Salt Lake has a rich maritime history that was only recently recorded, according to the 1995 edition of the Utah Historical Quarterly. David Shearer, manager of the Great Salt Lake Park, told Utah’s local Fox affiliate station that the vessel is likely a working boat made of steel and a wood deck, suggesting that it may have been from the railroad fleet.
“Some of the Great Salt Lake’s early vessels represent an overlooked boatbuilding tradition due to the unusual way they were constructed,” notes the publication. Before the arrival of the railroad, the isolation of the region sparked creativity in boatbuilders who created unique – and often ungraceful – vessels that did not adequately address the challenges of the brine-rich and shallow lake.
The Great Salt Lake is what’s known as a terminal lake, meaning that it has four rivers leading into its waters that do not have an outlet. These tributary rivers bring in small amounts of salt that is left behind as the waters of the 27-kilometer-long (17 miles) lake evaporate. It wasn’t until the railroad arrived at the turn of the 20th century that the region’s boatbuilding practices advanced in response to the newly available technology and resources.
“Once the railroad arrived, wood types more available for boatbuilding could be obtained, as could various corrosion-resistant metals and prefabricated fittings,” notes the quarterly. “The railroads were also capable of transporting enormous steamboat boilers and engines with relative ease and economy. Moreover, entire boats, either complete or disassembled, could ride the rails to the valley.”
Experts anticipate further analysis and research will help to offer clues about the origins of the rusted, crusty remains.