Thursday, March 06, 2008


Conklin: Dig deeper into history at ship festival


Wisconsin State Journal
By Melanie Conklin
March 06, 2008

Neither Keith Meverden nor Tamara Thomsen have ever seen a ghost. But they have encountered plenty of skeletal remains in the watery graveyards that their profession demands that they frequent.

The pair work for Wisconsin Historical Society's Maritime Preservation and Archaeology Program and the more temperate months of the year find them diving in lakes Superior and Michigan to map and document shipwrecks.

Meverden, an author and nautical archaeologist, says Wisconsin waters house about 750shipwrecks. And despite an increased popularity in amateur diving because of more affordable sonar technology, only 150 of these have been discovered.

But he says they "are not in the business of finding wrecks." Rather, they research the ships' stories and how they ended up in the murky depths. And as featured speakers at this weekend's Ghost Ships Festival in Milwaukee, Meverden says he'll offer an "underwater tour" of the steamer SS Wisconsin, located in Lake Michigan near Kenosha. Thomsen will talk about technical diving.

But if you go, try asking them about finding the anchor from the Rouse Simmons, aka the "Christmas Tree Ship," or removing enough zebra mussels from the Ocean Wave, which sank off Door County, to uncover an eagle figurehead with its eye still painted red.

The Ghost Ships Festival, happening Friday and Saturday, is hosted by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Research Foundation, Inc., and in addition to attracting maritime historians, it offers the public a glimpse at life below our lakes' surfaces. For details visit


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