Prins Willem V

Milwaukee's Most Famous Shipwreck

The Prins Willem V, sometimes called “The Willey,” is a 250 foot Dutch freighter that sank on October 13, 1954, when it ran into the tow cable of a tug boat pulling a barge. The cable left a laceration in the hull that caused the ship to sink. Today the Willey sits on the bottom about 3 miles off of Milwaukee in 60 feet of water.

Due to the muddy bottom, the ship continues to sink slowly into the bottom and is now partially hidden. When the Prins Willem V sank, the ship rolled toward her starboard side and sits at a 45-degree angle to the bottom.

Divers attempting penetrations of the Prins Willem V should exercise extreme caution. Because the shipwreck lies on its starboard side, it is easy to get disoriented. Handrails and other debris lying on what is now the bottom of hallways can pose entangement hazards. At least five divers have lost their lives diving the Prins Willem V. Proper technical training and equipment are required to safely penetrate this wreck.

Swimming through the cargo holds is considerably safer and can be extremely enjoyable. Divers should use lights and practice good buoyancy when entering the cargo holds. It can be dark even during mid-day toward the back of the cargo holds, and the bottom is extremely silty. Recreational divers can safely explore the outer portion of the wreck, but are strongly advised against making penetrations beyond the light zone.

Given her depth and the fact that she is still intact, the Prins Willem V is one of the most popular wreck dives in all of Lake Michigan. Visibility can range from 20 to 80 feet. When conditions are good, this wreck is a world class dive site. Any qualified diver visiting Milwaukee should put the Prins Willem V on the "must see" list.

Maximum depth: 95-100 feet
Distance to deck: 60-65 feet
Dimensions: 250'5" x 42'1" x 14'7"
Moorings: Wheelhouse and Stern. Because the wreck is in the shipping lanes, mooring are often cut off by cargo ships.
Skill level: Intermediate to Technical