theTICKER
Traverse City News and Events
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Today's News
Share | RSS Feed  

Exploring the Mysteries of the Bay

June 1, 2013
Exploring the Mysteries of the Bay

Tourists might flock to Traverse City to soak up the waterfront views and play in the waves, but for Dr. Mark Holley, the most fascinating aspect of Grand Traverse Bay lies deep beneath its surface.

Holley teaches cultural anthropology and underwater archaeology at Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) and is chief archaeologist at the Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve (GTBUP). He is also an instructor at the Nautical Archaeology Society in Northwestern Michigan (NASNMC). As part of a long-term research project initiated in 2007, Holley – along with his students – spends his days documenting the cultural resources that dot the bay's floor.

“Shipwrecks, ruins, submerged structures...our goal is to locate and preserve our archaeological heritage,” Holley explains.

At 32 miles long, 10 miles wide and up to 620 feet deep, Grand Traverse Bay is a sizable territory to cover. But thanks to NASNMC and GTBUP, as well as NMC's Great Lakes Water Studies Institute, an influx of technology, equipment and academic interest is helping lift the veil on the bay's mysteries.

Dive below the surface, Holley says, and here's what you might see:

Shipwrecks – The holy grail for divers and nautical archaeologists, shipwrecks can be found in abundance on Lake Michigan's murky floor. Locally, popular dive spots include the Metropolis schooner south of Old Mission Point, the tugboat The Tramp off Power Island and the towering freighter Francisco Morazon off South Manitou Island.

Using newly acquired sophisticated sonar equipment, NMC students recently mapped the bay's floor in high resolution, providing the first new bottom maps in 80 years. Among the discoveries of their hydrographic survey was the 1906 tugboat Lauren Castle, resting near Suttons Bay (of the more than 200 shipwrecks that have been documented by Mission Point Lighthouse keepers, only three have been discovered to date). Among the vessels haunting the bay that have yet to be located: remote-controlled drones from World War II, according to Holley.

Prehistoric Artifacts – Holley made a splash in the national scientific community in 2007 when he discovered a series of stones set in a circle 40 feet underwater in Grand Traverse Bay. One stone in particular stood out: It appeared to bear faint man-made carvings resembling a mastodon, an animal that went extinct 10,000 years ago. If authenticated by experts – a process Holley and his colleagues are still waiting on – the markings would constitute an ancient petroglyph, an invaluable historic find.

Other ancient Native American artifacts and settlements are still likely to be uncovered in the bay, Holley notes. That's because 8,000 years ago, the bay didn't exist – in its place instead was a valley, a probable home to human settlers.

Lumber Yards, Pipelines & Junk Piles – Clinch Park is a popular spot for sunbathers and swimmers, but dip just beneath the surface near the boat launch and you'll encounter one of the region's key attractions for divers: a vast graveyard of lumber, left over from the city's booming sawmill days. Relics from another past industry – the piping remains from the old power plant – also lure underwater explorers to downtown.

Holley's favorite place to dive, however, is an area known as the “Junk Pile” near Haserot Beach at the tip of Old Mission Peninsula. In the 1950s, teenagers attempted to create an artificial island on which to party by piling up items including small boats, a refrigerator – even a Ford Pinto.

“I've been diving all over the world, but I've never seen anything quite like it,” Holley says with a laugh.

While these and other cultural discoveries are important resources for understanding and protecting local nautical history, they represent only a tiny fraction of the bay's potential, according to Holley. "We haven't even begun to scratch the surface," he predicts.

What's important, Holley says, is that we keep looking.


Most Recent Comments

 
Kathy on June 3, 2013 5:25pm

Fascinating, thanks!

Christine Williams on June 2, 2013 10:42am

I did some research on the aircraft carrier and associated planes. I'd be happy to share what I know.

buk on June 2, 2013 10:03am

My grandparents were spotters during the great war and told me about the other spotters who saw a Japanese sub near Ford Island.

Also if you remember the early 60's a B52 flew over Big Rock Point and then crashed in the bay with a nuclear bomb on it.

Nancy Jaroh on June 1, 2013 11:04pm

The small boats, the "junk pile" and the Ford Pinto are all accessible from Haserot Beach, but spread out in different locations of Old Mission Harbor. I hope this clarifies the statement in the article

Gonzo on June 1, 2013 2:16pm

Thanks Beth for the link - as an old Unix guy, not exactly the "open source" I was looking for - the difference between Franklin (open innovation) and Jefferson (closed innovation) is too pervasive in today's world - but that's a completely different thread.

Cindy on June 1, 2013 11:13am

I would love to see the map in detail. I have lived here all my life and have heard stories of the shipwrecks. It has always fascinated me.

Beth Milligan on June 1, 2013 10:33am

Hi Gonzo - A number of images from the students' hydrographic survey are available to view online here: https://www.nmc.edu/resources/water-studies/hydrographic-survey-gallery/index.html.

Howard Sweitzer on June 1, 2013 9:34am

I find it interesting that the aircraft carrier that operated on the Bay during wwII is never mentioned. My Dad worked for the Record Eagle. In the 1950's while waiting for my Dad I sometimes read the Micro film about the war. Several times there was an article about a plane missing the deck of the carrier and falling in the bay. Might be some of those down there too.

Brett on June 1, 2013 9:05am

"In the 1950s, teenagers attempted to create an artificial island on which to party by piling up items including small boats, a refrigerator – even a Ford Pinto."

Ford Pinto was a product of the 1970's - fact checking and or explanation is your friend.

Gonzo on June 1, 2013 6:29am

Does anyone know how to access:
Using newly acquired sophisticated sonar equipment, NMC students recently mapped the bay's floor in high resolution, providing the first new bottom maps in 80 years.
It would be cool if this study was accessible by the public.

Local Resources
Classifieds

Classifieds

Real Estate

Real Estate

Obituaries

Obituaries

Marriages

Marriages

New Businesses

New Businesses

 
More News
Your Preview of a Crowded 104th Race
Your Preview of a Crowded 104th Race
Break-In at Toys R Us
Break-In at Toys R Us
72nd Rotary Show Opens Tonight
72nd Rotary Show Opens Tonight
Try Curling This Saturday
Try Curling This Saturday
New Looks, Brands for Downtown Traverse City Bars
New Looks, Brands for Downtown Traverse City Bars
Feds Sue Sugar Loaf's Polselli for $5.1M in Taxes
Feds Sue Sugar Loaf's Polselli for $5.1M in Taxes
City Moves Forward on Madison, Garland
City Moves Forward on Madison, Garland
Brian Regan, Judy Collins Coming to Opera House
Brian Regan, Judy Collins Coming to Opera House
your ad here