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.