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GREAT LAKES WRECK TREK 2017 - TRIP REPORT

This year’s Great Lakes Wreck Trek 2017 took us to the small Michigan town of Munising which has a grand population of 2,247 people.  The journey from Phoenix took us through Minneapolis and into Sawyer International Airport in Marquette, Michigan.  From there we rented a midsize SUV and took on the back country roads for 45 miles until arriving at our destination in Munising.

After checking into our accommodations and stocking up on food at the local grocery store we headed off to Foggy’s Steakhouse where you can cook your very own steak right on their grill inside the restaurant.  Foggy’s is without a doubt the place to go for great food and amazing atmosphere.  The wait staff were very attentive, the outdoor patio is expansive and the scenery is just breathtaking.  The menu is huge and if you can’t find what you want on the menu, it probably doesn’t exist.

The following morning we met up for breakfast with the rest of the group that was driving in from other various parts of the country to discuss the upcoming dive schedule and the wrecks we were to be diving on over the next two days.

Day one of diving took us to the wrecks of the Smith Moore and the Manhattan. 

The Smith Moore is a 260-foot long, three mast wooden steamer that sank in the Munising East Channel on July 13, 1889 as the result of damages suffered in a collision.  She rests intact in about 100 feet of water with visibility of 20-40 feet.  There is somewhat easy access to some portions of the interior of the vessel through open hatches.  The wreck lies nearly intact on the sandy bottom where the deck is at about 80 feet and divers will find assorted machinery as well as schools of game fish on the wreck.

The 1,545-ton Manhattan, a comparatively modern and staunch vessel in her day was measured at 252 feet by 38 feet by 19 feet. She had two decks and three masts.  Iron straps crisscrossed her hull under her planking to provide additional strength. Innovative for her time, she had a steel boiler house, steam pumps, windlass and electric lights.

As the story goes, the Manhattan was downward bound on Lake Superior from Duluth headed for Buffalo and was forced by north gales to shelter behind Grand Island.  After the weather moderated later that evening the Manhattan started down the east channel for the open lake.  About midnight, when she was opposite the Beacon Light, her steering chain broke, causing her to veer off course and strike a reef just off the channel.  No sooner had she struck, a fire broke out.  Apparently the force of the grounding knocked over a lantern which started the conflagration. It was the only explanation the captain and his mates could offer.  When the fire could not be brought under control, the crew was taken off by the passing tugboat, Ward. The steamer burned to the water’s edge, and together with her cargo of 76,000 bushels of wheat, was a total loss.

Day two of diving took us to the wrecks of the Steven M. Selvick and the Bermuda.

The Steven M. Selvick , a steel tug of 70 gross tons, 71 feet in length with a 19 foot beam was intentionally sunk in the Alger Underwater Preserve on June 1, 1996 as a new historical attraction for SCUBA divers.  The tug was originally named the Loraine and then renamed the Cabot and played an important role in the construction of the Mackinac Bridge.  It was then purchased by Selvick Marine and Towing out of Sturgeon Bay, WI.  Upon the vessels retirement, she was sold to the preserve for $1.  She lies in approximately 65 feet of water.  The pilot house starts at about 40 feet and continues to the flat bedrock at a maximum depth of 70 feet.  Due to the fact that she lies right on top of solid bedrock, the wreck is sitting on her port side and over time has seen extensive damage to the structure caused by the water conditions moving the vessel around on the solid bottom.

The Bermuda, a 150 foot wooden schooner foundered and sank in the spring of 1870 in Murray Bay on Grand Island. Her top deck is just 12 feet below the water’s surface where she has remained for 128 years.  The wreck is intact which is remarkable considering how shallow of a wreck she is.

The cold water of Lake Superior rushed into the small forecastle with sledge hammer-like force. It slammed the sleeping crewmen against the hull planks, shocking them into confused consciousness.  Their desperate struggles were to no avail.  When they climbed into the rat hole of a forecastle they called home, all was right with the world, but it was here that three of the crew of the Bermuda met their end.

Captain Finney and his remaining crew made their way to Marquette and reported their calamity. About a week later they returned to strip the schooner of anything useful and she was abandoned to the insurance underwriters.  For practical purposes the Bermuda just disappeared from the maritime scene.

After two solid days of cold water wreck diving, our group was amazed at how well the wrecks were preserved due to the cooler water temps keeping algae and other organisms from deteriorating them as well as how the fresh water preserved them.  The group headed off to dinner and then back to their rooms to prepare for their early morning departures the next day!

In summary, a great time was had by all and it was amazing as always to see hundred year old wrecks in such awesome condition!  The visibility was great as expected and the water temps weren’t as cold as some of them had seen in prior years!  As the group departed the discussion of next years adventures was brought up and discussed, some of them wanting to push further into Lake Superior and some looking to dive into Lake Erie and/or Lake Ontario on next years adventure!

Stay tuned to see where we end up next year, either way it’ll be an adventure you don’t want to miss out on!

Huge thanks to all who were able to join us on this years adventure, we hope to see you along for next years!  If you would like to join us for next year’s adventure or are looking to get wreck diving or drysuit certified in order to join us next year, give us a call!

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