Shipwrecks of the Manitou Passage

Please join Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Saturday, December 17 at 1:00 p.m. for a shipwreck program presented by diver/historian Ross Richardson.  Discover the legends and history of Sleeping Bear Point and learn about the shipwrecks that lie under her waters.  This program will last approximately 1 to 1.5 hours.  Meet in the Visitor Center Auditorium in Empire.

Diver on ShipwreckThe shipwrecks of the Manitou Passage have attracted underwater explorers for decades.  Today, the underwater photography of these explorers allows landsmen to visit the shipwrecks from the comfort of a warm, dry chair.  Join Park Rangers as diver/historian Ross Richardson helps us explore some of the shipwrecks of Sleeping Bear Point and unravel some of the mysteries they hold.  He has spent the last decade searching for, and documenting, shipwrecks off the coast of west Michigan.  Richardson is credited with discovering the location of the legendary steamer Westmoreland, which sank south of Sleeping Bear Point in 1854.

Ross Richardson diving a shipwreck

Offshore of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore lies the Manitou Passage.  Although this 36-mile long waterway offers some protection from the open waters of Lake Michigan, even the waters of the passage can be treacherous.  Many ships seeking shelter sank in this passage, hitting shoals and sandbars and running aground before being destroyed by the waves of Lake Michigan.  There are 16 known shipwrecks in the passage and around the Manitou Islands, but there may be as many as 45 wrecks still undiscovered on the bottom.  Many wrecks are well-preserved and offer clues on how they surrendered to the strength of the big lake in the days before advanced navigation when ships relied on basic tools like a compass, clock, and chart.  Please join us for this glimpse into the pre-railroad era when shipping on the Great Lakes provided the means for westward expansion to the upper Midwest.  There is still much to discover!

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