This summer my family and I vacationed in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We visited the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society and the Museum complex at Whitefish Point. This museum is a treasure trove of history, tragedy, beauty, and stories of heroism.
|Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum|
Congress established the Whitefish Point Light Station in 1849. Since then, its life-saving beacon has continuously illuminated these treacherous waters. In 1861, during Abraham Lincoln’s administration, the present light tower was built. Today, the Whitefish Point Light is the oldest operating lighthouse on Lake Superior. When visiting the museum, for a small fee, you can brave the narrow stairwell to the deck of the light. The view from the top is breathtaking.
|My husband and I at the top|
of the lighthouse
The Light Station was operated exclusively by the U.S. Lighthouse Service from 1849 until 1923. Then the U.S. Coast Guard established a Lifeboat Rescue Station at the point. In 1939, the Lighthouse Service and the Coast Guard merged. Lifeboat Station ceased operation in 1951, and in 1970 the Coast Guard removed all personnel from the site.
Even with the help of the light station and the Coast Guard
Lifeboat Rescue Station the area is wrought with shipwrecks. What is it about a shipwreck that’s so fascinating to us? Perhaps because the ship is a testimony to the lives of those who perished, or because of the sheer terror the thought of a ship sinking in the middle of a vast body of water invokes in us. Whatever the reason, my deepest sympathies and reverence go out to those lost at sea.
|Inside and outside of a lifeboat|
Due to Lake Superior’s extreme depths, most shipwreck sites remain undisturbed. Explorations leave wrecks and artifacts as they lay with only professional documentation of the site taking place.
There are over 6,000 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes with an estimated loss of 30,000 mariners’ lives. Most of the estimated 550 shipwrecks in Lake Superior go undiscovered. At least 200 of those wrecks are along Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast.
The SS Comet is one of the more fascinating shipwrecks in the area. She is
The most famous of all Great Lakes shipwrecks has to be the November 10th, 1975 sinking of The Edmund Fitzgerald. The ship was 729 feet long, 39 feet high, and had a breadth of 75 feet. Empty, the vessel weighed 13,632 tons. The Edmund Fitzgerald broke records for the amount of cargo it could haul, and while many factors played into the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Some of the theories include the ship’s size and weight in addition to the fierce November storm on that fateful night. Winds were clocked at 45 knots and waves as high as 30 feet were undoubtedly a significant aspect in the ultimate demise of the Edmund Fitzgerald. There has even been speculation that a rough wave pulled the ship under water. Though the actual cause may never be known the tragedy of the death of The Edmund Fitzgerald’s crew of 29 will forever be immortalized in the Gordon Lightfoot song, The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald.
The day we visited Whitefish Point the skies were clear and blue. The water calm and cold, and the wind warm and light. The area is saturated with a long history, rich with the heroics of the Coast Guard’s Lifesaving Station, the hope of the beacon of light shining from the Light House Station that still burns brightly today, and the horrifying heartbreak of many shipwrecks along its coast. If you ever have the chance to venture to Whitefish Point, be sure to stop by The Shipwreck Museum and take a moment to remember those who will never leave.
All photos are copyright by Michele K. Morris and may not be used with permission of the author.
Award winning author, Michele K. Morris’s love for historical fiction began when she first read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. She grew up riding horses and spending her free time in the woods of mid-Michigan dreaming of days-gone-by and knights-in-shining-armor. Therefore, it only makes sense that she now writes historical romance with a touch of suspense. Married to her high school sweetheart, they are living happily-ever-after with their children, in-loves, and grandchildren in Florida, the sunshine state. When not spending time with her large brood or writing, Michele enjoys photography, genealogy, and cooking.
Thanks for sharing. This was very interesting.ReplyDelete
You're welcome! Thank you for commenting, Chappydebbie!Delete
We love reading about the shipwrecks around here. (fellow Michigander) My parents talk about the Edmond Fitzgerald quite a bit. We like to see the skeleton of one on the shores of the Ludington State park. There is a poster in the Big Sable Lighthouse that shows all the shipwrecks on a map of the great lakes. It is phenomenal and so sobering to see how many and where they all are. Thanks for a wonderful post!!ReplyDelete
Thank you for commenting, Susan! Shipwrecks are an interesting part of Michigan history. It's all so fascinating, yet sad. I'll have to add Ludington State Park to our places to visit. Thanks!Delete
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Hi, Michele! Shipwrecks are so mysterious and horrifying as well. I always wonder who the people were, what family they left behind, and what plans they might have had for the future.ReplyDelete
I've been on a cruise ship twice, and while I love the moment when the shore is left behind and all around there is nothing but water on the horizon, I still have that lingering fear of sinking. I much prefer little boats on little ponds. :)
Thank you for sharing your experience at Whitefish point and these beautiful photos.
Hi Natalie! So nice to hear from you. I completely agree, I'll keep to little boats on little ponds. (I love that) lol! Thank you for the comment!Delete
Beautiful photos! I've never been in a lighthouse before. I cannot imagine the terror of being on a sinking ship/boat in such a vast amount of water. I've been on large lakes but could always see the shore in the distance.ReplyDelete
I agree, Andrea. I don't even want to imagine what it'd be like to be on a sinking boat in the middle of a large body of water. So scary.Delete
Thank you for stopping by!
Michelle has captured so much history in her share about the Great Lake shipwrecks. It's unbelievable how many there have been over the years. The lighthouses have always intrigued me from a very young age...around my grandparent's homes near Lake Huron, to the many around Grand Traverse Bay. There's something about looking out of your bedroom window and seeing the glow of a light up high, knowing the purpose but feeling like you have a friend across the lake.ReplyDelete
Hi Dee! What a nice memory. I grew up next to a train track and I still love the sound of a passing train. Funny how those childhood things stay with us. Thank you for the comment and for stopping by HHH. :)Delete
Hi Michelle, as a lifelong Michigander, I've often traveled up north on vacation. We went to Whitefish Point quiteReplyDelete
a few years ago. It's such a beautiful place, you would think yourself on the ocean! And the museum was fascinating. I don't remember hearing about the Comet, so that was cool to read about in your article. And,
yes, who could forget the Edmund Fitzgerald? Thanks for sharing your wonderful article that brought back
memories for me.
Thank you, Kathleen, for the kind words. My husband wanted to go to Whitefish Point and I'm so glad we did. After living in the Orlando area for a long time, it takes a lot to impress me (as far as museums and such). But Whitefish Point is very well done. I was completely impressed. And the views... It doesn't get any better! Thank you so much for the comment and for stopping by HHH.Delete