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Some Dead Bodies Float in Lake Superior

Tracy Davenport Tracy Davenport
1st July 2021
Some Dead Bodies Float in Lake Superior
Lake Superior is notoriously cold (Getty Images).

The Claim

Dead bodies will not rise in Lake Superior.

Emerging story

Social media users are claiming that Lake Superior is so cold, dead bodies will not float to the surface. One post was shared more than 20,000 times. 

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Misbar’s Analysis

Misbar discovered that according to Shipwreckmuseum.com, there are about 550 shipwrecks in Lake Superior that killed an estimated 30,000 sailors. Most of the wrecks are undiscovered. The reason that some believe many of the sailors are still in the lake and have not surfaced is due to Lake Superior’s cold water. The average temperature of the lake is 36 degrees. 

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The reason a person who is dead in the water floats to the surface is because there is bacteria on and within our body. After death, a person’s gut and the cavity in the chest can produce enough gases such as methane, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon dioxide to float the body to the surface of the water like a balloon up to several weeks beyond death. According to tutorialspoint.com: “If a body stays on the surface of the water for a long time then it will release the gas that has been built up and then it will sink into the water once again. Decomposition continues underwater and then more and more gas is collected and the body may start floating again. This is also known as a ‘re-float’ in terms of rescue workers.”

However, how fast something floats can depend on how active the bacteria are, and this can depend on the water temperature. Cold environments will slow the bacteria down while more tropical environments will speed them up.

According to Sciencefocus.com, cold water also encourages the formation of adipocere, a waxy, soapy substance formed from the fat in the body that partially protects the body against decomposition. Bodies have been retrieved almost completely intact from waters below 44 degrees after several weeks, and as recognizable skeletons after five years.

While it is reasonable to assume that the colder parts of Lake Superior slow the bacteria and encourage the formation of adipocere, leading to dead bodies that remain sunken in these areas, there are parts of the lake that are more shallow and in these areas bodies will float. 

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Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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