Watching Great Lake Shipwrecks

on TV and I have been fascinated with these types of wrecks (I have always been slightly macabre with my fascination with disasters) ever since visiting Whitefish Point (http://www.exploringthenorth.com/whitefish/whitefish.html) and the museum there (I also got to visit the Copper Harbor Light house as well).

While we naively assume that shipwrecks are a phenomenon of a long off more romantic time period, it is a huge shock to learn that shipwrecks on the great lakes have occurred almost in my life time (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Edmund_Fitzgerald).

Today it is hard to imagine that 36 years ago, that this absolutely huge ship was lost on the lake. It is even more difficult for my children to imagine this. The vast influx of technology over the last 15 years has made the idea seem preposterous.

I visited the museum in the late 90’s, only a few years after the recovery of the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1995. It is rare that we are face to face with an object that is both a solemn object representing a preventable tragedy and loss of life, but is also entirely fascinating (did I mention my macabre tendencies).

The great lakes are a major part of the history of the United States and our expansion across the continent. This series of lakes, chained together by canals from Wisconsin to New York and the Erie Canal to the Atlantic has been a major shipping route for over 300 years. Just about everyone has seen examples of the weather around the lakes, from snow in Green Bay or Buffalo to the “Windy City” of Chicago. The part these lakes played in our development didn’t come without a price. With thousands of wrecks (estimates between 4,700- 6,000) and an estimated 30,000 lives lost, the Great Lakes hold a powerful history beneath their depths. Archaeologists continue, to this date, to work to find and document these wrecks.

On November 10th, the 36th anniversary of the Edmund Fitzgerald will again be remembered. While this is one of the last and largest wrecks of current times, it has come to stand for all the ships and lives lost on these lakes.

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