Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Researchers hope images will help preserve shipwrecks


Ohio News Network
July 11, 2005

WHITEFISH POINT, Mich. -- Researchers are using remotely operated vehicles to catalog shipwrecks in Lake Superior, with hopes that the images they bring back will help preserve a fragile and deteriorating part of history.

With support from a Michigan Department of Transportation grant, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society is currently cataloging five wrecks.

"We've done a lot of research related to the shipwrecks, created models, commissioned paintings and taken scores of underwater video and still pictures," said Tom Farnquist, director of the society.

The project highlights the fragile nature of wrecks throughout the Great Lakes. In the lower Great Lakes, zebra mussels threaten to encrust and destroy shipwrecks, and preserving them is a fight against the elements.

"They are endangered. They break down constantly. They suffer from natural degradation," said historian Pat Labadie of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. "Our task is to gather as much information with as much integrity as possible."

The historical society has finished surveys of the Vienna, which sank in 1892, and the John Osborn, which sank in 1884, and is finishing a survey of the Samuel Mather, which sank in 1891. All three were wooden steamers.

The group also plans to survey the John Cowle, a wooden steamer that sank in 1909, and the Comet, a propeller ship that sunk in 1875.

Los Angeles artist Ken Marschall also is doing paintings of the vessels. Using the information gathered by the researchers, Marschall creates a photorealistic painting of the wreck site.

"The visibility is always much, much less in actuality than what you see in my paintings," Marschall said. "I create sort of a God's eye view. You can never see such clear views at 100 feet depth or more.

"The most you can see is 20 to 30 feet at a time."


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