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New Discovery

The Cleveland Underwater Explorers (CLUE) would like to announce the discovery and identification of the tank barge Argo.

Sidescan image of the Argo (Sidescan by Tom Kowalczk / CLUE)

On Friday, August 28, 2015, while performing a historical shipwreck side scan sonar search in the waters of Lake Erie, Tom Kowalczk of Cleveland Underwater Explorers (CLUE) detected a target of interest on the otherwise featureless lake bottom east of the Lake Erie islands. Taking advantage of favorable weather and lake conditions and utilizing the capabilities of the electronics aboard his well-equipped vessel, Kowalczk was able to obtain high resolution, high quality side scan sonar images of what appeared to be a large intact barge sitting upright on the bottom of the lake. Kowalczk, whose remote sensing and navigation skills are exceeded only by his knowledge of Great Lakes history, ships and shipwrecks, was quite confident that he had found the tank barge Argo which had been abandoned in a sinking condition during an autumn gale in the early morning hours of Oct. 20, 1937. The Argo was last seen afloat in this general area and eventually sank. A subsequent search performed by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) failed to locate the wreck at the time and the exact location of the sunken barge was never determined.

The first step of CLUE’s standard post-discovery process includes independent reviews of all discovery and available historical data by CLUE members, additional historical research, discussion, and debate. CLUE ultimately concluded that the newly discovered shipwreck was in all probability the tank barge Argo, a shipwreck that the post-discovery process revealed to be 1 of 87 shipwrecks identified by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2013 as a possible threat to the environment. NOAA’s assessment relative to the Argo had compelled the USCG to develop contingency plans for the purpose of determining and mitigating any environmental issue(s) should the Argo ever be found.

CLUE contacted the National Museum of the Great Lakes (NMGL), a sponsor of CLUE’s historical shipwreck endeavors, to advise them of the discovery and discuss the most logical and prudent next steps. CLUE and NMGL recognized that their efforts to locate, investigate, document and preserve our submerged cultural resources must be in concert with and not present a risk to the integrity of the marine environment in which these resources reside. The organizations mutually agreed that any further on or in water activity relative to the Argo would be imprudent and that the only responsible course of action would be to contact the USCG, provide them with details of the discovery and allow them to put their contingency plans in motion.

CLUE subsequently contacted the 9th District USCG who moved quickly to set up a meeting to discuss the discovery and review the evidence supporting the identification of the wreck as the tank barge Argo. Based on the information and documentation provided by CLUE and NMGL at the meeting, the USCG and NOAA concluded that the recently discovered shipwreck was in all probability the tank barge Argo. As the USCG was very well prepared for this circumstance, they immediately commenced the real-time assessment process.

With the present day management and story of the Argo now in the capable hands of the USCG, CLUE is eager to tell the interesting story of how a New York harbor tank barge, not designed, constructed or licensed to operate in open water including the waters of the Great Lakes, ended up on the bottom of Lake Erie some 78 years ago. Unfortunately this story, including the wind and waves that made the loss inevitable, the daring and difficult rescue of the Argo’s crew and the violations of the law for which the Argo’s owner was ultimately held accountable, will have to wait – but not for long. Look for it in the upcoming Winter edition of Inland Seas, the Quarterly Journal of the Great Lakes Historical Society.

CLUE would like to express our appreciation for the consideration, cooperation and very timely attention extended to us by the USCG. In addition, as citizens and taxpayers we were very pleased to learn that agencies of our federal government, the NOAA and the USCG in particular, are proactively working to safeguard the environment and natural resources that impact in so many obvious and not-so-obvious ways on all of our lives.

The Coast Guard has established a regulatory safety zone 3 nautical miles east of Kelley's Island Shoal extending 1 nautical mile around position 41 deg 38' 21" N, 082 deg 29' 35" W.

CLUE Discoveries:

Shipwreck Date of Discovery
Argo 28 Aug 2015
Plymouth 26 Jul 2013/ Jun 1996
Lily
7
Jun 2012
Sultan 12 Aug 2011
TEK #2
13
Oct 2010
Dump Barge
10
Oct 2010
Small motorboat
10
Oct 2010
C. B. Lockwood
7
Aug 2010
PIB Stone Barge
7
Jul 2010
John F. Eddy
27
Oct 2009
Wisconsin
23
Sep 2009
East Breakwall Barge
16
Aug 2009
Buried Tug
13
Jul
2009
Crib Wreckage
6
Jun 2009
5:15 Barge
5
Jul 2008
Riverside
6
Oct
2007
Buried Schooner
23
Sep
2007
Little Sail Boat
16
Sep 2007
John J. Barlum
16
Jun 2007
Detroit #2 Dredge
16
Oct 2006
Stone Schooner
1
Oct 2006
Anthony Wayne
16
Sep
2006
Cortland
30
Jul
2005
CSU Wreck
11
Oct
2004
117th Street Tug
1
Oct 2002

Barge F

1
Aug
2001

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