Tuesday, December 07, 2004


A hands-on with shipwrecks and divers


Cook County News-Herald
By Joan Farnam

Fourth grade teacher Jana Larson
dressed in a diver’s suit and students
had a chance to see how it worked.
Dave Cooper, an experienced
underwater archaeologist who is an
archaeologist for the National Park
Service, led the class. He can be seen
in the background.

Fourth graders in Deb Waage and Jana Larson’s classes explored the mysteries of underwater archaeology recently and in the process discovered something about Grand Marais history as well as developed new detective skills.

And, if talking with a few of the students about the class is any indication, the kids just loved it. Sylvia Frazer, Clay Johnson, Cecilia Schnobrich, Justin Goldstein, Kieran Scannell and Colin Everson couldn’t stop talking about all the things they had learned in the shipwreck class taught by Park Service archaeologist Dave Cooper.

Cooper, the fourth graders said, was a 41-year-old underwater archaeologist who had dived in 80 wrecks and had spent a total of 1,000 hours underwater in his lifetime.

“He’s been everywhere,” Kieran said. Cooper said he told the students about some of shipwrecks he has explored around the world and in Lake Superior, including two in the Grand Marais harbor — “The Elgin,” a 150-foot schooner that broke up right in the harbor during a bad storm in 1906 and the steamer “Liberty,” which burned and sank in the harbor in 1919.

He also dived to see “The America,” the ship that plied the waters along the North Shore during the early years and played a crucial role in Grand Marais history.

“The America” sank off Isle Royale, the students said, but, like all shipwrecks in Lake Superior, it is well preserved. “Lake Superior is so cold, it helps preserve ships,” Sylvia said.

The students did more than study marine history, too. They also about learned about the physics of diving as well as the research methods used to analyze shipwrecks, Cooper said.

In that exercise, students explored (in the dark, with flashlights) a mock shipwreck set up on a classroom floor and tried to figure out what happened, the age of the vessel, the people on board, the type of ship it was — all based on clues from the artifacts. They did it, too. “It was neat,” Justin said.

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