Is Lake Superior Truly So Cold a Dead Body Will Never Float the The Surface?
I recently made my first trip to a Great Lake, Lake Michigan. Me and the kids got in the water and soaked up the sun (Dad soaked up too much sun, to be fair).
The water was cool, but not too cold. It was calm, but far from still. The beach was packed, but not too crowded. It really was just right.
Now, I have a taste for dark aesthetics and all things spooky. Morbid jokes don't phase me and my music tastes outright scare some people. But Lake Superior has one hell of a legend that makes even me shiver at the spine a bit.
I saw this Facebook post and audibly said 'There is just no way that's true.' Call me skeptical, but this is a Facebook post, a meme really. Not the most regularly trusted source of information.
The meme made the rounds across many Michigan-based Facebook groups and makes the claim that Lake Superior's water:
"is so cold, a dead body will never float to the surface, because the water is never warm enough to grow the bacteria needed to cause a dead body to float."
The word "never" might be carrying a lot of weight there. Besides, as someone not from around these parts, that sounds just completely made up.
So, I hit the old Google machine to see if it was true and it turns out, that yeah, Lake Superior really doesn't "give up her dead." However, it's not a total blanket statement.
I followed the research of TruthOrFiction.com, which took from many sources to figure out if, in fact, Lake Superior prevents dead bodies from floating.
It is true, that the normal bacteria that causes dead bodies to decompose and form gasses that result in bloating and floating is dormant in Lake Superior as the lake is somewhere between 32 and 55 °F throughout the year. However, it isn't a be-all, end-all situation across the lake.
While there have been roughly 350 whipwrecks and an estimated 10,000 lives lost to Lake Superior, there aren't 10,000 bodies, or nearly that many, preserved at its bottom (Though, even a rough estimation of how many could be down there isn't information available on the internet, from what I can tell.)
Often the first point to the whole idea is the existence of "Old Whitey", a preserved body deep within the lake, the captain of the SS Kamloops, which sunk outside Isle Royale in December 1927, claiming the lives of all who were on board.
Of course, "Old Whitey" is the only one down there out of 13 in the crew.
Further examples highlighted were the Edmund Fitzgerald and SS Hudson helped solidify a perhaps better understanding of what's really going on with those who perish in the lake. In the case of the Fitzgerald all 29 aboard rest with the sunken freighter. As for the Hudson, while there were roughly 25 aboard, some, though not a specific number, washed ashore wearing life preservers from the vessel.
The Hudson sank in September, but the waters were still far too cold for anyone to survive.
Still, the point stands, that those who didn't go down with these ships and stayed at the surface did find the shoreline.
That said, it appears, that the fact stands... If attached to a sunken vessel of some kind, or if submerged entirely, Lake Superior won't give up her dead. However, anyone that manages a life preserver or some other method of floating until they reach shore will stay above. It sounds obvious, but the simple matter is that a simple drowning near the shore may not have the same effect as one further out into the waters.
I highly recommend reading the article from TruthOrFiction.com on the subject. It's very in-depth and tackles some other potential myths concerning the world's largest lake.