A shipwreck at the bottom of Lake Michigan containing a trove of boozy treasures may soon reach the surface.

Researchers are planning to retrieve some €16 million ($17 million) of gold, whiskey, and other valuables from the preserved remains of the ship, according to a Feb. 6 article by The Mirror. The ship sank in Lake Michigan during a storm in December 1854, resulting in 17 casualties. It was left undisturbed for centuries on the uneven floor of the Great Lake.

Underwater explorer Ross Richardson first discovered the wreck in 2010 and now intends to unearth its cargo once receiving a permit. The “salvage operation” is in its first stages, he says, as his team plans to retrieve some of Westmoreland’s historic treasure.

Credit: Chris Roxburgh

Among the vessel’s cargo is a large amount of whiskey, which he says was likely headed toward a fort on Mackinac Island. The gold coins on the ship are believed to have originally been intended to pay soldiers stationed there.

The objects are noted to be well-preserved and include some 280 barrels of whiskey. Richardson expects whiskey collectors and distilleries will have a special interest in the resale value of the 1850s spirit.

“The Westmoreland is an underwater museum, filled with perfectly-preserved relics from the 1850s, and preserving them for public display would be a worthy cause,” Richardson told The Mirror.

Richardson is especially interested in the differences between wheat utilized in the 19th-century liquor and today’s spirits — upon unearthing, the whiskey is set to undergo testing by a local distillery.