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Shipwreck Museum – Whitefish Point, MI

Big reason to come to upper Michigan is to see the Shipwreck Museum on Lake Superior. It is at the top of the upper peninsula or the UP as they call it. You get there by going over the 5 mile long Mackinac bridge. I became a Yooper the other day to learn about the treacherous nature of Lake Superior and see the bell raised from the Edmund Fitzgerald in memory of the 29 men who disappeared on it. Whitepoint Lighthouse there is one end of the ship’s graveyard along the coast.

Mackinac BridgeMackinac Bridge2

The museum is small but the displays are powerful, the video presentation on the Edmund Fitzgerald is fascinating, the tour of the lighthouse keeper’s family home is very interesting, and the shore along Lake Superior was windy and cool.

Shipwreck Museum - Whitefish Point, MILighthouseLookoutLake Superior

In the museum they show artifacts and even parts of the hulls of sunken ships along with their tales of doom. I found it interesting that it is not just the gales of November that claims them. They also go down from the dense fog and extremely busy shipping lanes causing collisions.

In the case of the Edmund Fitzgerald, it had been in several recent accidents before that night including hitting the sides of the Soo locks and running aground. The night it went down, many things went wrong besides the huge storm it was in. They lost both of their radars, they lost some hatch covers or they were seriously damaged, the signal they pick up for guidance was not working, etc. They still don’t know for sure what capsized it.

Edmund FitzgeraldBell of the Edmund FitzgeraldBell info

The museum is run by an organization that hunts for shipwrecks along the bottom of the lake. The other day they found a steamer, the Cyprus, missing since 1907, while looking for a sunken schooner. It had not been found before because it was 8 miles away from the last position reported by the only survivor. It sank in a gale on only it’s second trip out after being built.

Being a lightkeeper looked like a hard, lonely life but many chose to do it as a life of service they could be proud of. It wasn’t so bad if they had family to help and keep them company I expect. The house at Whitepoint looked pretty nice actually. I would not care to have to climb the stairs up to the tower every 2 hours to wind up the light turning mechanism all night long. The 5 mile walk along the dark beach every night that the surfmen did to look for ships in trouble, survivors, and dead bodies took quite some guts and stamina. Survivors were often brought back to the house for the lightkeeper’s wife to warm them up in her kitchen.

Lightkeepers also maintained large foghorns and submarine bells (bells under water rung electrically to guide ships since sound travels farther under water).

In the pictures below you will see the NEWT suit for deep water diving which allows deeper dives without decompression, a Coast Guard surf boat, surf cart, etc.

NEWT suitSurf boatSurf cartbeachwalk.jpg

superior2.jpgLighthouse againLighting the way

For more pics, click here.

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