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Missing shipwreck found after 128 years thanks to invasive species of mussels

While producing a documentary about a mussel species in the Great Lakes, two filmmakers discovered a shipwreck that went missing 128 years ago.

Yvonne Drebert and Zach Melnick were in the process of filming the invasive quagga mussel in Lake Huron when they stumbled upon the Africa, a steamship that went missing in October 1895 while carrying coal from Ohio to Ontario, Fox Weather reported.

The Africa vanished after one night “on the turbulent and wind-whipped waters of Lake Huron,” the news site continued.

Drebert and Melnick also found themselves in the midst of turbulent weather while searching for the invasive species of mussels.

“Just like when the Africa went down in 1895 early season storms, it was getting rough,” Drebert shared with Fox Weather.

“When we went out to check it out, it was supposed to be nice and calm, but of course, the wind kept coming up. We actually brought some friends with us,” she added.

“We thought we were just going to see a pile of rocks, so why not? But it got pretty rough, and they were feeling a little seasick. So we had to call it a day.”

After Drebert and Melnick’s underwater drone detected something rather large, the pair and their team sent a robotic camera down to get a better look.

The camera captured images of the mussels they had been documenting. But when they saw a shadow come into frame, it left them amazed.

“It got more and more definition as we got closer and closer, and all of a sudden, we could see, ‘Wow! This is a steamship, a wooden steamship,’” Melnik told Fox Weather.

“So this is old, and it is incredibly well intact.”

The invasive mussels that brought the two filmmakers out to Lake Huron seem to have discovered the buried treasure before they had.

“The quaggas are the reason we’re able to see the shipwreck in almost 300 feet of water without any additional lights,” Melnick continued.

The invasive mussels that brought the two filmmakers out to Lake Huron seem to have discovered the buried treasure before they had.

The steamship is covered with mussels which helps with wreck identification, but the invasive species will eventually destroy the ship.

The filmmakers were able to identify the vessel as the Africa due to the size of the ship and the coal found around the wreck.

Discovery of the shipwreck brought excitement to the film team, but it also brought a sense of closure to the families of the crew who went missing in the shipwreck.

“One of the incredible things that’s happened since this story has come to light just a couple of weeks ago is that several of the descendants of family members who died on this wreck so many years ago have reached out to us,” Melnick shared.

He went on, “And we’re working with those families to try to find a way to remember those sailors who had died 128 years ago.

The Center of Invasive Species Research in Riverside, California, reports that quagga [and zebra mussels] invasions “have had catastrophic impacts in the ecosystems in which they have established.”

“These organisms clog water intake structures (e.g., pipes and screens), which greatly increases maintenance costs for water treatment and power plants,” the organization adds on its website.

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