Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Maritime museum could float your boat


By Becky Linhardt
July 04, 2005

With a load of iron ore - 26,000 tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early

From "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot.

Shipwrecks, including that of the Edmund Fitzgerald, are part of the fascinating history detailed in exhibits and interactive displays in the Inland Seas Maritime Museum at the Great Lakes Historical Society in Vermilion, Ohio.

One interactive station challenges visitors to safely steer a big freighter down the twisting Cuyahoga River to the open waters of Lake Erie.

Lydia Craner of Garfield Heights, Ohio, gave it a try. "I did a bit better than Mom," she said. "She crashed on the first bend of the Cuyahoga River."

Another station has an interactive computer program that allows visitors to explore eight shipwreck sites beneath the 95,000-square-mile surface of the Great Lakes.

In Lake Erie alone, there have been an estimated 1,400 to 8,000 sinkings, but only about 200 shipwreck sites have been confirmed.

Much of the information in the exhibit about the Edmund Fitzgerald focuses on the November 1975 storm on Lake Superior. And, since weather is one of the most important factors in maritime endeavors, the sound system in the museum is tuned to the National Weather Service.

You can hear the broadcast about wind conditions, lake levels and potential storms as you stand at the wheel of the 1905 Canopus with a view to the Vermilion Harbor.

The beautiful paneling and brass instruments gleam in the small space dominated by the huge ship's wheel. The original pilothouse of the Great Lakes ore/car carrier was added to upper level of the museum in 1992.

In the main exhibition area, another captain's wheel is in front of an expansive window with views to the harbor and a replica of the 1877 Vermilion Lighthouse.

The romance of the past is captured in galleries with paintings and ship models. For the mechanically inclined, tracking and navigational devices abound.

Details of life on the Great Lakes are remembered in photographs of cruise ships, freighters and their crews.

In addition, images of yacht club commanders and regattas of the Inter-Lakes Yachting Association document racing history from more than 100 years ago to today with trophi es and information about the association's annual regattas at Put-in Bay. This year's will be held July 28 - August 03.


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