Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast is the 15th National Marine Sanctuary
MANITOWOC (NBC 26) – Dave DeZeeuw has explored shipwrecks along the west coast of Lake Michigan for decades.
“I was a flight instructor here at Manitowoc in the 1980s,” he said. “We used to see the wrecks in the water. I thought everyone knew them, but the people walking on the beach walked past them and had no idea they were there.
This summer, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, designated the Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast, a 962 square mile area of Two Rivers in Port Washington, a national marine sanctuary this summer. NOAA will extend the state’s 30-year stewardship to historic sites, providing new opportunities for research, resource protection, educational programs and community engagement. In partnership with local communities, the sanctuary will provide a national stage for the promotion of heritage tourism and recreation.
“There is a legacy here,” DeZeeuw said. “I think this marine sanctuary, now they call it ‘heritage recreation’. It is something new that they are trying to make come and see, that there is a maritime heritage in this region. There are hundreds of years of navigation and ships in this region.
An estimated 122 shipwrecks have sunk along the coast, but only 36 are known.
“There is still a lot to discover,” said Cathy Green, executive director of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. “They are so well preserved. Cold fresh water preserves the wrecks here in the Great Lakes like nowhere else in the world. It’s like having time capsules at the bottom of the lake. From a museum and archaeological point of view. or historical, it’s absolutely fantastic. “
The process of designating the Shipwreck Coast as a National Marine Sanctuary took a decade, Green said.
“The collection of wrecks that are out there really exemplifies navigation here on the Great Lakes over 150-200 years,” she said. “It’s really like having a catalog of those parts, these ships that have really helped build these communities, isn’t it right at your fingertips.
If you want to see the wrecks with your own eyes, you don’t need a plane or sophisticated scuba gear; wrecks go from ten feet underwater to 400 feet so there is plenty to see from a kayak or boat. You can even just put on a swimsuit and grab some goggles, like DeZeeuw, if you can protect yourself from the cold water.
“This is something Manitowoc has a history of,” DeZeeuw said. “And that’s something we can show and be proud of as citizens here.”