Marine News from the Great Lakes

Second Annual Wreck-a-Palooza

Tragedy and Discovery from Lake Superior to Lake Ontario

Published: Wednesday, May 31, 2017

(Toledo, OH) – As an integral part of the mission of the National Museum of the Great Lakes, our crew is dedicated to shipwreck discovery, archaeology and preservation. With the formation of the Peachman Great Lakes Shipwreck Research Program in 2001, we solidified our commitment to our submerged cultural resources. Wreck-a-Palooza is an opportunity to learn more about ongoing research and exciting discoveries that are happening in the depths of our Great Lakes every year.

Wreck-a-Palooza will take place on Saturday, June 3 and on Saturday, October 7. Each day will feature two presentations. Attendees have the option to register for one presentation, an entire day (which includes both presentations and a boxed lunch) or the entire symposium (4 presentations over the 2 days), whatever fits their schedule. Unfortunately, lunch is not available for those registering at the door, but attendees are welcome to bring a bagged lunch. Wreck-a-Palooza is sponsored by Bowling Green State University Libraries.

Session I: Saturday, June 3, 2017

Presentation 1 – 11:00am
Tragedy & Discovery off the Shipwreck Coast: The Wreck of then Schooner Nelson
Mr. Bruce Lynn, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

“First Disaster of the Season” - Such was one headline that described the May 1899 shipwreck of the schooner Nelson, which went down so quickly that one eyewitness said that she sank as “quickly as one could snuff out a candle!” She sank on Lake Superior’s southeast shoreline, in the vicinity of the Deer Park Life-Saving Station. What happened to her? How was she discovered? And why has this shipwreck been called “particularly tragic”, when most, if not all, shipwrecks have a tragic story? Discover the dramatic story of the schooner Nelson in this exciting program.

Presentation 2 – 1:00pm
Durham Boat – Defining a Great Lakes Working Watercraft
Dr. Ben Ford, Professor of Anthropology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Durham boats - wooden, flat-bottomed, double-ended cargo vessels - were a vital part of eastern North American inland transportation during the 18th and 19th centuries, but are rarely seen in the archaeological record. The discovery of a 19th-century shipwreck in Oneida Lake, NY, that closely resembles historical Durham boat descriptions allowed for an investigation of this boat type that also sailed the Great Lakes. The Oneida Lake shipwreck is fully described and compared to primary historical accounts to establish it as an archaeological example of the Durham boat type.

Session II: Saturday, October 7, 2017

Presentation 1 – 11:00am
Davidson’s Goliaths – Evolution of Design of the Great Lakes’ Longest Wooden Ships
Ms. Caitlin Zant, Archaeologist, Wisconsin Historical Society

James Davidson was one of the most prolific shipbuilder’s on the Great Lakes and is known for building the world’s largest wooden vessels long into an era when many of his contemporaries were building with steel. At a time when iron and steel were becoming the accepted building materials in shipyards across the world, Davidson continued making innovations in technology that pushed the accepted size limits of wooden vessels to a proportion never thought possible. Today, Wisconsin is a significant repository of Davidson’s record-breaking vessels in the form of shipwreck sites. Seven of Davidson’s vessels have been lost or abandoned in Wisconsin waters and six of those have been located, recorded, and are now represented in the archaeological record. The shipwrecks Australasia, Adriatic, Frank O’Connor, City of Glasgow, Appomattox, and Pretoria remain remarkable testaments to Davidson’s shipbuilding prowess and innovative technological design, preserved beneath Wisconsin’s cold, clear waters.

Presentation 2 – 1:00pm
The Wreck of the Railroad Car Ferry Milwaukee
Ms. Tamara Thomsen, Underwater Archaeologist, Wisconsin Historical Society

At 3pm on October 22, 1929, two days before Black Thursday set off the U.S. stock market crash and the Great Depression, the railroad car ferry Milwaukee pulled away from the Grand Trunk slip in Milwaukee, lowered her sea gate, and set out on her afternoon run across Lake Michigan with her hold full of freight cars. Although a tremendous storm was raging on the Lake and other vessels had cancelled their trips because of the gale, her Master, Capt. Robert “Bad Weather” McKay, kept to the railroad’s schedule. The ship never made Grand Haven, Michigan. Days later, bodies of some of her crewmen and lifeboats were picked from the water and a note in a message case was found on a Michigan beach.

The car ferry Milwaukee rests in 125 feet of water. She has long been a favorite dive site in the Milwaukee area and featured in television shows and documentaries. The Wisconsin Historical Society completed the first comprehensive archaeological survey of the Milwaukee, which resulted in the nomination of the shipwreck to the National Register of Historic Places. Join Wisconsin Historical Society’s Maritime Archaeologist, Tamara Thomsen for an in-depth look at the car ferry Milwaukee’s history. Discover what others have overlooked and misreported pertaining to her loss, and learn what really happened in the final hours of this great ship.

What: 2nd Annual Wreck-a-Palooza

When: Saturday, June 3, 2017 and Saturday, October 7, 2017; 11am-2pm

Where: National Museum of the Great Lakes, 1701 Front Street, Toledo, Ohio 43605

Single Presentation: NMGL Members - $12, Non-Members - $15
Single Session (2 presentations and 1 lunch): NMGL Members - $35, Non-Members - $40
Full Symposium (4 presentations and 2 lunches): NMGL Members - $65, Non-Members - $75

tags: Shipwrecks, Events, Lake Erie

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