On July 13, 2011, the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (NMS) announced the discovery of two Great Lakes shipwrecks. The discoveries were part of Project Shiphunt, an exciting archaeological expedition, sponsored by Sony and the Intel Corp, that included five high school students from Saginaw, Michigan.
In May, the students undertook the adventure of a lifetime: hunt for a shipwreck, investigate its identity, and document it in 3D for future generations. Accompanied by a team of scientists and historians from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the students conducted a full-fledged research mission, as they searched the deep waters of northeastern Lake Huron. The team also worked with scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory to investigate the historically significant shipwrecks.
The team located the 138-foot schooner M.F. Merrick. In 1889, the schooner collided with a passing steamer in a dense fog. The Merrick sank immediately, and claimed the lives of five crew members, including a female cook. Today, the intact hull of the schooner rests upright on the bottom of Lake Huron.
The wreck of the steel freighter Etruria was also discovered and identified by the researchers. Launched in February 1902 at West Bay City, Michigan, the 414-foot long Etruria sank in 1905, after colliding with a steamer in thick fog. Today, the massive steamer sits upside down in deep water.
Project Shiphunt will be chronicled in documentary that will be released on August 30. Sony and Intel Corp. are also partnering with the sanctuary on a comprehensive educational curriculum for high school science and history teachers.
The project represents the first time Thunder Bay area shipwrecks have been filmed in 3D, and the team is working to incorporate the new data into the exhibits at the sanctuary's Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center.
According to sanctuary superintendent Jeff Gray, the discoveries are an exciting opportunity to better understand the Great Lakes. "This research will help us protect the Great Lakes and their rich history for future generations. It is also an extraordinary opportunity to inspire the next generation of explorers and introduce them to technology and experiences that could shape their futures," said Gray.
Great Lakes shipwrecks are among the best preserved in the world. Lake Huron's cold, freshwater has kept many Thunder Bay sites virtually unchanged for over 150 years. Through research, education and community involvement, the sanctuary works to protect our nation's historic shipwrecks for future generations, while providing access to recreational users. The sanctuary will continue to investigate the new shipwrecks and will work with the State of Michigan to provide location information so divers can access the new sites.