Current Research


Goodrich Passenger Steamer Atlanta - Field School

East Carolina University's Program in Maritime Studies returned to Wisconsin in June of 2016 to conduct a field school in underwater archaeology. Students spent three weeks documenting the features of the wreck and creating a detailed site plan of remaining hull structures. The Atlanta shipwreck provided a shallow training venue in only 15 feet of water, with most of her lower section intact and buried in the sand lake bottom.

The steamer Atlanta was built in 1891 at the Cleveland Dry Dock Company for the Goodrich Transportation Company. The ship measured 200.10 ft. in length, with a 32 ft. beam and 13.60 ft. depth of hold, and transported passengers and package freight on Lake Michigan during her service career. At 11:15 a.m. on 18 March 1906, Atlanta departed Sheboygan enroute to Milwaukee carrying 65 passengers and a cargo of mostly porcelain, enamelware, metalware, leather, and wooden furniture. Around noon, 14 miles south of Sheboygan, crewmen discovered a fire in the hold of the vessel. The fire was fought with precision by the well-practiced crew, but to no avail. The new automatic sprinklers and fire apparatus, tested only six days prior, could not stop the blaze.
Survey of the Tubal Cain

The Tubal Cain is a 294-ton, barque-rigged sailing canaller that was built by J.M. Jones in Detroit, Michigan in 1866. She became stranded south of Twin River Point (Rawley Point) during a northeast gale on 26 November 1867. Today, her hull remains extant from her deck beams down. The wreck was discovered in 8 feet of water by powered parachute pilot, Suzze Johnson in May of 2016.

The results of this 2016 survey greatly added to continuing research into hull variations within sailing candlers that have been documented in Wisconsin waters, including the Walter B. Allen, Floretta, America, and Daniel Lyons. Canallers were a unique vessel type developed on the Great Lakes to transit the Welland Canal, the canal that bypasses Niagara Falls and connects Lakes Erie and Ontario. Vessel were constructed with unique features to allow the ships into the locks, while carrying the maximum amount of cargo with only inches to spare.
Survey of the Grace A. Channon

One of our major survey initiatives of the 2016 season was the survey of the schooner-rigged sailing canaller Grace A. Channon. Wisconsin Historical Society archaeologists conducted a Phase II archaeological survey of the vessel to previously collected video and photography data collected in 2010 by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Wisconsin Historical Society archaeologists were able to evaluate the site for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Grace A. Channon was engineered with specific hull lines and unique adaptions that allowed a tight fit within the locks of the Welland Canal (the canal that bypasses Niagara Falls). Ships with these features, called sailing canallers, carried grain harvested from Midwestern farmlands to ports on Lake Ontario and returned loaded with coal to heat cities and power factories.

On the night of August 2, 1877, Grace A. Channon was carrying a cargo of coal from Buffalo bound for Chicago when the four-year-old schooner plunged to the bottom of Lake Michigan within five minutes of being struck by the propeller Favorite. Her co-owner, Henry L. Graham and his two young sons, Harry and Alexander, were aboard taking passage from Buffalo to Chicago by water. Seven-year-old Alexander became separated from his father and was sucked under as the ship sank in 180 feet of water 16 miles southeast of Milwaukee. The results of this survey have contributed to our understanding of the construction, adaptations and use of sailing canallers adding to knowledge gained from Daniel Lyons, Walter B. Allen, Floretta, America and others.
Evaluation of Remains of a Sunken Vessel Believed to be the H.L. Whitman

In July of 2016, Wisconsin Historical Society archaeologists were shown the 117-foot long remains of a two-masted sunken sailing ship located south of Wind Point in Racine County. Only a portion of the bilge section of the vessel remains with no hull sides, deck, rigging or other structures remaining. Based on historic records the only loss matching a vessel of this length is that of the 286-ton schooner H.L. Whitman built by Salmon Ruggles in Milan, Ohio in 1856 and stranded and abandoned on Wind Point in October of 1869. Since little site integrity remains, the site was determined ineligible for the National Register of Historic Places, however a full survey of the wreck site was conducted at the time of visitation.
S.S. Senator ROV Documentation

The 4048-ton Senator was built in 1896 at the Detroit Dry Dock Co. in Wyandotte, Michigan and measured 410 feet long with a 45.4 foot beam and a 23.9 feet depth of hold. Made of steel, she was built for the Wolverine Steamship Company. On the night of 31 October 1929 while sailing in a dense fog, carrying 268 Nash automobiles from Milwaukee to Detroit, the Senator collided with the bulk carrier Marquette off Port Washington and sank in over 400 feet of water.

Data on the shipwreck and current observations were collected by remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and multi beam sonar imagery provided by Crossmon Consulting of Hermantown, Minnesota in December of 2015 which allowed for listing of the site to the National Register of Historic Places.

Survey of the Car Ferry Milwaukee

One of the main survey projects of the 2014 season was the survey of the car ferry Milwaukee. Wisconsin Historical Society archaeologists conducted a Phase II archaeological survey of the Milwaukee to augment extensive photography and videography used to document the site during the field seasons of 2012-13. The steam-powered rail car ferry Milwaukee was launched in late 1902 at Cleveland, Ohio, and entered service as the Manistique Marquette and Northern I in early 1903. The vessel foundered during a brutal storm on the night of 22 October 1929, and remains the worst car ferry disaster in Great Lakes history. Today, the vessel is located three miles east of Fox Point, Wisconsin, in 120 feet of water on the bottom of Lake Michigan. Archaeological investigations unveiled information previously contested about the car ferry’s sinking, including the number of rail cars on board the vessel when it sank, and the fate of the vessel’s bent sea gate. The ship’s unique combination of maritime and railroad history, as well as the mystery and tragedy surrounding her loss, continues to fascinate both professional and avocational historians alike. A National Register of Historic Places nomination was also completed for Milwaukee this season, reviewed by the Wisconsin Historic Preservation Review Board in late November.
Apostle Islands Brownstone Quarry Docks Survey

In a joint project with the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, funded by the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, Historical Society archaeologists surveyed the submerged remains of the brownstone quarry docks on Stockton, Hermit, and Basswood islands in September 2014. The Apostle Islands Brownstone Quarry Docks Survey focused on recording the remains of the brownstone quarry operations in the area to augment information for the national park. Archaeologists and a team of four volunteers spent two weeks documenting the quarry docks and the adjacent shorelines. Although seemingly a straightforward task, the weather, along with the remoteness of the islands made documenting the sites a challenge. During the archaeological survey, site plans of each of the quarry docks were produced, along with photo and video documentation of the cribbing, and associated artifacts discovered amongst the old timbers, including, numerous pieces of cut stone, quarrying tools and derricks, rail cart implements, and a few personal items. Historical research of each quarry is currently being completed and collected for a site report.
National Register of Historic Places Boundary Expansions

The 2014 season included new National Register of Historic Places boundary expansions for two protected archaeological districts in Wisconsin, in Door County and just north of Milwaukee. The Jacksonport Wharf Archaeological District was added to the National Register in 2012 and includes three shipwrecks, Annie Dall, Perry Hannah, and Cecelia, and the remains of three historic piers, LeMere’s Pier, Hibbard’s Pier, and Reynolds’ Pier. Since 2012, the shoreline of the bay has receded nearly 150 feet, uncovering additional maritime resources previously buried in the sand dunes. The high water levels and sand movement in the area uncovered a previously undocumented rudder, an additional piece of hull from one of the nearby shipwrecks, and the lower hull of a pound net boat, located in the surf zone next to LeMere’s Pier. Due to the recession of the shoreline, and the augmented high water mark, an additional 12 acres along the shoreline were added to the district to encompass the newly uncovered cultural resources.
Survey of the Schooner Pathfinder

The summer of 2014 marked a unique year for shipwreck discovery and identification with an astounding number of vessels washing out of the sand up and down the coast of Lake Michigan. The schooner Pathfinder is one such wreck that was surveyed by a team of archaeologists from the Wisconsin Historical Society in August of this year.

The schooner Pathfinder is a 635-ton, three-masted schooner built in Detroit, Michigan, by Campbell, Owen & Company, in 1869. She sailed in the Great Lakes iron ore trade until she was caught in a gale north of Two Rivers Light in November of 1886, and was considered to be a total loss because she sank into a "bed of quicksand" just off shore of Two Creeks. Today the remains of the vessel lie in 15 feet of water, with most of her lower section intact, including a large portion of her iron ore cargo. The lack of zebra and quagga mussels on parts of the vessel's hull indicate that until recently, most of the vessel was covered by sand. Archaeological investigations have discovered multiple areas in which the vessel was "strengthened" and repaired following multiple collisions. Although in shallow water, the vessel maintains excellent integrity.
Survey of the Scow-schooner Success

During summer 2014, a team of archaeologists from the Wisconsin Historical Society has continued documenting Wisconsin's historic scow schooners. This study began in 2005 following the discovery of the Ocean Wave off Door County, and continued this summer with the archaeological documentation of the scow Success.

The Success is a 151-ton, two-masted scow schooner built in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, by Julius Johnson, in 1875. She sailed in the Lake Michigan lumber trade until she was caught in a storm while loading wood in Whitefish Bay and was pushed aground on the beach in November of 1896. Today the remains of the vessel lie in 8 feet of water, with most of her lower section intact, just off shore. The lack of zebra and quagga mussels on the vessel's hull indicate that she was only recently uncovered from the sand. Archaeological investigations indicate that the Success was a transitional vessel, implementing building techniques seen in San Francisco scow construction and no where else in the Great Lakes. Though in shallow water, many of the vessel's sailing implements remain on the site, including wire rigging, dead eyes, the bilge pump, and centerboard.

This documentation adds to the information already collected on historic scow schooners in Wisconsin waters, the most recent of which was the survey of the Silver Lake. The Silver Lake is a 105-ton, two-masted scow schooner that was built in Little Point Sable, Michigan, in 1889. She sailed in the Lake Michigan lumber trade until she collided with the Pere Marquette on 28 May 1900. Today, she lies upright and intact in 210 feet of water northeast of Sheboygan. Her hull is fractured from the collision, but her foremast remains standing with a rigged yard.
Survey of the Schooner Hanover

The 2014 season began with the discovery of the schooner Hanover, located on Hanover shoal, just south of the Strawberry Islands near Fish Creek in Door County, Wisconsin. Hanover is a 188-ton, two-masted schooner built in Irving, New York, by C. Stevens in 1852. Measuring 109 feet long, Hanover served primarily in the grain trade in the Great Lakes until 1867 when it ran up on the Strawberry Reefs during a gale in November of that year and was considered a total loss. The vessel’s rigging, mainmast and anchor were later salvaged. Today, the vessel rests in 18 feet of water just off shore of Fish Creek, with the entire bilge intact. No zebra or quagga mussels covered the vessel’s ceiling planking at the time of documentation, indicating that the vessel had been mostly buried in sand until recently. A Phase II archaeological survey of Hanover was completed in June, and a site plan was completed. As one of the earliest discovered centerboard schooner in Wisconsin waters, Hanover remains an important key in Wisconsin’s role in the early Great Lakes grain trade. Currently, a National Register of Historic Places nomination is being completed for the site.
Survey of the Lady Ellen

The Lady Ellen is a 42-ton, two-masted scow schooner that was built in Ahnapee (now Algoma), Wisconsin. She was later rebuilt and enlarged at Algoma, and spent much of her career carrying commodities and goods to and from that community. She eventually outlived her usefulness and was abandoned in the Ahnapee River in 1907. Today, her lower hull remains where she was abandoned, and is often visible protruding from the river during periods of low water.

The results of this 2011 survey greatly added to the growing list of scow schooners that have been documented in Wisconsin waters, including the Ocean Wave, Iris, Tennie and Laura, and Daniel Hayes. Although the scow schooner was vital to many early Lake Michigan communities, this vessel class is poorly documented in the historic record and their construction and use are poorly understood today. The archaeological surveys of the Silver Lake and Lady Ellen will greatly contribute our knowledge and understanding of this poorly-understood vessel class and its role in shaping Wisconsin.
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