On Saturday, August 18, two recreational divers were exploring a Lake Michigan shipwreck when they happened upon the body of a man who had been missing for more than a decade.

The divers had inadvertently located the remains of Dirk Kann, who was 52 years old at the time of his disappearance in September 1999. Kann and his friend Greg Olsen were exploring the popular but dangerous shipwreck of the Lakeland, a cargo vessel that sank off Whitefish Point, Wisconsin in 1924, when they encountered trouble. The pair was 175 feet below the surface, a depth only achieved by highly experienced divers, when Olsen noticed his air supply was dropping fast. The men were forced to make an emergency surfacing attempt, sharing a single oxygen tank as they ascended.

Both men were experienced divers, but were losing air quickly on the way up. Kann stopped at 80 feet below the surface as he decompressed, a necessary step to prevent the buildup of nitrogen bubbles in the blood. Low on air and already three-quarters of the way up, Olsen decided to continue his ascent unaided and left Kann with the reserve tank of air. He kept looking for Kann behind him, but never saw him surface.

Although numerous attempts were made to locate Kann’s body, none were successful and the case was considered closed with a missing body until the recent discovery. The divers found Kann’s body at the wreck of the Lakeland 225 feet below the surface, according to Door County Sheriff Terry Vogel at a Sunday night news conference.

His “mummified” body was found still with his wetsuit on and air tanks hooked up. The pressure, temperature and limited supply of oxygen at that depth kept Kann’s body relatively well-preserved, but the Sheriff’s Department did not release details of the exact condition of the body. He was identified in part by the fact that he had two fingers amputated.

Find out more information about why his body did not decompose 200 feet below the surface in the video below.

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Kann’s family has been notified. His children still run the business that Kann’s father started, Kann Manufacturing. Rose Kann, his wife, said she was relieved to have finally located the body, but she had difficulty speaking about it.

“We made numerous attempts through the years to try to recover him with technological advancements,” Sheriff Vogel said. “We used some of that to go down there, but his remains weren’t found until Saturday,” more than a decade after the tragic incident.

Image from Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten on the flickr Creative Commons

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