12 miles north of Paradise, Michigan
The Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve offers deep-diving experiences in Lake Superior on a variety of shipwrecks in its 376 square mile area.
"If there is truly a graveyard of Lake Superior, it is the general area of Whitefish Point. More vessels have been lost there than any other part of the lake. There are essentially three reasons for this terrible toll."
"First, the eastern end of the lake is a very congested area. Whitefish Bay acts like a huge funnel, gathering in the downbound vessel traffic from Duluth, Marquette, Thunder Bay, Two Harbors and all of the other ports, squeezing it together and directing it down to the St. Mary's River and the Soo Canal. By itself this presents no great problem, except that all of the upbound traffic must pass through all the downbound traffic.... A case in point is the tragic August 20, 1920 loss of the SUPERIOR CITY."
"The truly terrible consequences of the Whitefish Bay funnel happened when visibility decreased, which is reason number two. In some cases smoke from forest fires was the culprit, in others it was snow squalls. But by far the worst problem was the legendary Lake Superior fogs."
"The third reason for the carnage of wrecks was the great sweep of the seas. A Lake Superior storm usually screams down from the northwest and can build a sea of monstrous proportions. A roaring northwester can build waves over a clear sweep of 160 miles of open water. When the 729-foot EDMUND FITZGERALD sank 17 miles northwest of Whitefish Point on November 10, 1975, the seas offshore were reported at a height of 30 feet plus! The nightmarish effect of waves of this size on the vessels of a century ago can only be imagined."
From "Lake Superior's Shipwreck Coast," by Frederick Stonehouse, Published by Avery Color Studios, AuTrain MI 49806, 1-800-722-9925.
It seems ironic that one of the most notorious stretches of Lake Superior's navigable waters would today provide some of the best recreational diving opportunities in North America. The numerous shipwrecks which have occurred within the boundaries of the Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve offer many uniquely different dive sites of both wood and steel constructed vessels.
These shipwrecks provide safe yet challenging choices for divers of all levels and experience. Dive in crystal-clear waters. The excellent underwater visibility of Lake Superior during the diving season is 30 to 50 feet at a depth of 100 ft. A surface temperature of 60° within Whitefish Bay is normal from July through September. July and August are the best months for diving because the weather is most stable. There are few protected areas in this region of Lake Superior and the nearest U.S. Coast Guard Station is about an hour away so boaters must exercise extreme caution.
Discovered Shipwrecks for Diving and Depths
Alex. Nimick, 1907, 15' to 20' deep
M M Drake, 1901, wood steamer, 40' to 50'
Sagamore, 1901, whaleback, 45' to 65'
Myron, 1919, wood steamer, 45' to 55'
Miztec, 1921, wood steamer, 45' to 55'
Eureka, 1886, wood steamer, 50' to 55'
Panther, 1916, wood steamer, 90' to 110'
Sadie T., wood barge, 80' to 140'
Niagara, 1887, wood schooner, 90' to 100'
Indiana, 1858, wood steamer, 100' to 115'
Vienna, 1892, wood steamer, 120' to 148'
John Mitchell, 1911, steel steamer, 120' to 140'; John M. Osborn, wood steamer, 145'to 165'; Samuel Mather, 1891, wood steamer, 140' to 170'; John B. Cowle, 1909 - steel steamer, 170' to 215'; Comet, 1897, wood steamer, 200' to 230'; Zillah, 1926 wood steamer, 230' to 250'; Superior City, 1920, steel steamer, 190' to 270'; Aurania - 420'; Edmund Fitzgerald - 535'
Divers using their own boats will find launches at Whitefish Point, Little Lake Harbor, Tahquamenon Bay, Brimley State Park, and Bay Mills. Divers and nondivers alike will enjoy a visit to this area because of the wilderness scenery, expansive beaches, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, the Whitefish Point Lighthouse, Bird Observatory and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Museum Complex located at the tip of the point.
The museum offers divers an opportunity to learn about the rich maritime heritage of the region. Travel in time from the first shipwreck on Lake Superior, the INVINCIBLE, to the latest and most famous, the EDMUND FITZGERALD. The video theater will take you on a journey through maritime rescues and disasters. Through the use of underwater film and video you will see shipwrecks as they lie today, beneath Lake Superior's rolling waves.
Paradise is the closest town to the Whitefish Diving Preserve. Here you will find lodging, food, and diver services such as air stations, equipment and boat charters.
For More Information Contact:
Portions of the text about the Whitefish Point Preserve and the map from "Diving Michigan's Underwater Preserves", 1997, by the Michigan Underwater Preserve Council, Inc., 560 N. State Street, St. Ignace, MI 49781. Published by Out of the Blue Productions, 4658 S. Lakeshore, Lexington, MI 48450
Photograph of the John Mitchell from the Marine Historical Collection, Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photograph printed in "Lake Superior's Shipwreck Coast," by Frederick Stonehouse, Published by Avery Color Studios, AuTrain MI 49806, 1-800-722-9925. Frederick Stonehouse's books are available through the Lake Superior Magazine.
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