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Wisconsin Shipwrecks Easy to Explore

February 19, 1999

For More Information: 

Jeff Gray, State Underwater Archaeologist
State Historical Society of Wisconsin (http://www.shsw.wisc.edu/)
(608) 264-6493 / jjgray2@facstaff.wisc.edu

Stephen Wittman, Assistant Director for Communications
University of Wisconsin Sea Grant (http://www.seagrant.wisc.edu/)
(608) 263-5371 / swittman@seagrant.wisc.edu


MADISON, Wis. (2/19/99) - The cold, fresh waters off Wisconsin's Lake
Superior coast have preserved hundreds of shipwrecks from the last
century and a half, transforming their depths into museums of maritime
Armchair adventurers and divers alike can now easily explore seven of
these wrecks thanks to a Web site and a set of dive guides produced by
the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute and the State Historical
Society of Wisconsin (SHSW). 
The Web site, called "Ice-Water Mansions: Shipwrecks of the Apostle
Islands," can be found at  http://www.seagrant.wisc.edu/shipwrecks. The
site features historical images of the ships, photos of the wrecks from
archaeological investigations, and accounts of the vessels' histories
and final voyages-including the grim fate of the three-masted schooner
On Nov. 15, 1886, the Lucerne departed Ashland, Wisconsin, loaded with
1,256 tons of iron ore and bound for Ashtabula, Ohio.  Hit by a violent,
sudden snowstorm, the ship turned back to seek shelter in the protected
waters of Chequamegon Bay. When the storm subsided four days later, the
Madeline Island lightkeeper discovered the Lucerne's masts jutting out
of the water. The bodies of three men were found frozen in the rigging,
encased in up to six inches of ice.  The entire crew had perished.
The Web site also recounts the fate of the 372-foot steel bulk carrier
Sevona, the 338-foot wooden schooner-barge Pretoria, and four other
unlucky vessels.  
For those who wish to venture beyond cyberspace, the dive guides will
enrich a visit to the wrecks themselves.  The waterproof, 9 " x 6 "
guides put site maps, historical information, and technical explanations
at divers' fingertips. Exploring the wrecks in person offers "a history
lesson like no other," according to Jeff Gray, acting state underwater
archaeologist at the SHSW.  
"It's like taking a trip back in time," Gray said.  "You leave the
modern world behind when you visit the wrecks.  You're transported to a
time when schooners and steamers ruled the Great Lakes.  You get an
appreciation for the critical role these vessels played in the
development of the region and a respect for the men and women that
worked the lakes.  There's no other way to get this close to history."
The information in the shipwreck guides and Web site is the result of
hundreds of hours of archaeological and historical researching, mapping,
and documenting conducted by SHSW archaeologists and volunteers. 
The team has also surveyed a number of wrecks in Lake Michigan, from
Kenosha to Door County.  UW Sea Grant and the SHSW will be producing a
Web site and guides for these wrecks over the next year and a half. For
more information on the guides, visit "Ice-water Mansions" on the Web
(http://www.seagrant.wisc.edu/shipwrecks) or call the SHSW at (608)
Since 1988, the State Historical Society of Wisconsin
(http://www.shsw.wisc.edu) has surveyed, mapped, and documented the
underwater archeological resources of the state.  This work will improve
the management of historic shipwrecks and help develop underwater
preserve areas to protect these cultural and recreational resources.
The State Underwater Archaeology Program is part of the SHSW's Division
of Historic Preservation, under the Office of the State Archaeologist. 

Created in 1966, Sea Grant
(http://www.mdsg.umd.edu/NSGO/WhatisSeaGrant.html) is a national network
of 29 university-based programs of research, outreach, and education
dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of the United States'
coastal, ocean, and Great Lakes resources.  The National Sea Grant
Network is a partnership of participating coastal states, private
industry, and the National Sea Grant College Program, National Oceanic &
Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.

John R. Karl
Science Writer

University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute
Goodnight Hall, Room 235
1975 Willow Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1103

phone   (608) 263-8621
email    jkarl@seagrant.wisc.edu
fax       (608) 262-0591
web      www.seagrant.wisc.edu