Sunday, August 07, 2011

Whitefish Point and the Shipwreck Museum

Just north of where we are camped in Brimley, Michigan, is the Iriquois Light. We toured this last year when we were here and drove past it this morning.

Today we drove north up to Whitefish Point on Lake Superior. Whitefish Point is known as the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes.” There have been more shipwrecks in this area of Lake Superior than in any other. The reasons for this include the narrowing of the lake on the east end as ships enter the “funnel” and ships going to and from the lake must pass. Also, weather is unpredictable in this area with fog, snow, and other visibility problems. Lastly, the lake has 200 miles of water in which storms can develop and the shoals off Whitefish Point leave little room for error. In the 1800's there were over 3,000 commercial vessels on the lake and most shipwrecks were caused by collisions. Now there are fewer than 200 vessels.

The museum here is quite small and features a few of the most famous wrecks including, of course, the Edmund Fitzgerald. The “Fitz” as it was known is the largest ship to have wrecked and it was lost in November of 1975. There was a terrible storm and the Anderson which was running a few miles behind the Fitz reported two large 30 foot waves which nearly took the Anderson down, but it survived. They knew the waves were heading toward the Fitz and speculation is that those waves are what put the Fitz over and down into her watery grave.

Twenty years later in 1995, a combined effort of the Canadians and the Americans engaged to raise the bell of the Fitz. Using mini-submarines and a “Newtsuit” (a special suit designed for deep water dives) they were able to retrieve the bell from the deck of the mighty ship. In its place, a bell with all the names of those lost was set back onto the deck of the ship in the place where the original bell had set.

Also on the grounds of the Whitefish Point Station, which is a Coast Guard Station, is the lighthouse which has signaled sailors for years along with a fog station which blows horns to warn sailors of the dangerous shoals. There is also a boathouse similar to others we have seen which had rescue boats poised on rails ready to be pushed out or pulled by horses or mules to the water's edge to rescue those whose ships were lost.

We enjoyed the trip up to the museum and exploring the area where so much history abounds. While the museum was small, it was worth the time and we enjoyed the trip up and back. On our way up, we saw this little guy walking across the road. We don't know what his story was, but he looked extremely thin and emaciated. Terry thought he must be sick, which is possible. He certainly hadn't eaten in awhile.

Till next time. . .


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