Shipwrecks and New/Old Friends

I had heard so many great things about the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point in the UP that I decided to forego riding the Curley Lewis Memorial Hwy (Scenic Byway M-123) out of Sault St. Marie, and hiking to Tahquamenon Falls, in order to give myself enough time to really take in all the exhibits at the museum.  And good thing I did, that place is awesome! 

Lightkeeper’s quarters built in 1861, part of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum complex.  It’s amazing how well the building has been restored and how many personal mementos of previous lighthouse keepers’ families are included in the home.  The period furnishings and descriptive panels really help you to visualize what life was like for a family stationed here in the 1800 and 1900s.
Looking at lighthouse lens never gets old!  And the intricate lighthouse lace curtains really added character to the lightkeeper’s house.

In an epic gap in my pop-culture knowledge, I never knew what the song “The Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot was about.  All I knew was that it was a really cool tune that reminds me of my childhood (it was released in 1975).  Click HERE for a bit of nostalgia if you’re of a certain age, and for a bit of education if you’re not 😉  One of the first things I did at the museum was to watch the documentary about the recovery of the Edmund Fitzgerald ship’s bell.  A truly harrowing story of the night the ship went down, the efforts to raise the bell in an attempt to bring closure for the families, and the memorial established at the museum.  

On November 9, 1975, a seasoned ship captain commanding the 729 foot Edmund Fitzgerald, one of the largest ships on the Great Lakes, departed Superior, WI with over 26K tons of processed iron ore and a crew of 28 men, headed for a steel mill near Detroit, MI.  The ship sank in a storm that night and was lost to the depths of the Great Lakes.  In 1995, the U.S. and Canadian Governments, along with the owners of the shipwreck, performed the dangerous recovery of the ship’s bell from 533 feet and replaced it with one engraved with the names of the men who died the night it sank.  The original ship’s bell now resides at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum as a memorial to the Edmund Fitzgerald.  You can read the full stories about the ship, the fateful night of its sinking, the bell recovery, and memorial HERE.

Though it may be the most famous of the Great Lakes shipwrecks, it certainly is not the only one.  According to the Underwater Research arm of the museum, there are over 6000 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes with a corresponding loss of 30,000 mariners lives.  “At least 200 of these lie along Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast, a treacherous 80-mile stretch of shoreline with no safe harbor between Munising and Whitefish Point, Michigan.  The famous Edmund Fitzgerald lies just 15 miles to the northwest of Whitefish Point.”

After touring the sites, I sat outside the gift shop eating the snack, when I heard “Hey look, it’s Sunshine!!” I look up and see Top and Mongo, from the hotel in St. Ignace, with a few friends in tow.  Even though we had just met a couple days before, it was like running into long-lost friends!  They saw my rig in the parking lot, so parked next to it and figured they’d run into me. We caught up a bit and then all walked down to the dock to take in the unbelievably beautiful lakeshore.  It’s so awesome when you just click with folks on your travels, and then run into them again down the road!

Meeting up again with fellow CVMA members Top and Mongo at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum was like running into family!
It was just a little eerie to see a ship passing by the dock of the shipwreck museum!
I took off my boots, rolled up my pant legs, and waded into the chilly waters of Lake Superior.  Although the water is too cold to swim in, and the beach not conducive to lazing about and reading a book, it was certainly beautiful in its own way.

After a little more visiting in the parking lot with Top, Mongo, and friends, we parted ways again to all head west, but via different routes.  They were going to hug the lakeshore, whereas I chose to take the more direct MI-28 route toward Munising so I could set up camp in time to get the lay of the lay before exploring the Pictured Rocks National Park area.

Oh, that Michigan road construction though. . . 

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