11 November 2008

Holidays and plans for 2009

With the holidays approaching MSRA is having our annual holiday get together with members in Saturday, December 6. It's a potluck, BYOB get-together at the van Heests home in Holand.

Beyond that, we are preparing for the 2009 Ghostships Fesitval in Milwaukee, followed by our own program in Holland in early May. Stay tuned for further details.

17 June 2008

Shipwreck discoveries!!!

Just kidding. No such luck this year! Dave Trotter has come and gone and we covered a lot of bottomlands wit the 50 kilohertz fish, banging for the big ones...but we came up empty.

I was out two of the eight days we searched, pulling about 6-8 hours at the wheel with a cat nap in between. The flies weren't too bad if we kept the vinyl curtains in place.

All in all a lot of territory covered and now we know even more places where the wrecks aren't!

27 May 2008

Countdown to Shipwreck Quest 2008!

Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates kicks off our annual ten day search for "ships gone missing" on Saturday, June 7 with reknown shiwpreck hunter David Trotter. Still out there waitng to be found are the Chicora, Andaste and Flight 2501.

I'll keep you updated here, but for real-time updates, join MSRA and you'll receive regular email messages about the search.

22 May 2008

Flight 2501 still elusive

Ralph Wilbanks and the NUMA tram have left Michigan and are headed back home to South Carolina and other areas haveing still not located the wreckage of Northwest Airlines Flight 2501. The elusive DC-4 airliner remains lost and we hope the team will return in 2009 to continue -- and complete! -- the search.

Ralph was again aided by his trusty boat pilot Steve Howard, and this year by Cameron Fletcher from Florida who provided the extra muscle needed to launch and retrieve the side scan sonar fish.

The NUMA team did locate two promising targets this spring. Both are boats, not planes. Divers will check them out soon.

Our thanks as or organization go to Clive Cussler, Dirk Cussler and the entire NUMA team for providing this tremendous support for our search for flight 2501. They have covered more square miles of bottom land in 5 years than we could have covered in 15.

06 May 2008

Shipwreck show a big success!

Yikes! It's been a while...

The 10th annual "Mysteries and Histories Beneath the Inland Seas" event was held in downtown Holland, Michigan's Knickerbocker Theatre on May 3 and the capacity crowd seemed to really enjoy the programs.

David Trotter and Ralph Wilbanks did a nice job with their portions of the program while Valerie van Heest updated everyone on all the ships still out there to be found. Val and I also did a live narration of the "Freshwater Monsoon" show.

We raised a bit of money, accepted a $1,000 grant from Great Lakes Shipwreck Research Foundation, announced that we have been granted official 501(c)(3) status and that the NUMA team has located two more targets that we need to get out and survey. One is a schooner and the other is a wooden steamer (or so it seems).

Thanks to everyone who came to the show!

09 March 2008


The 9th annual Ghost Ships festival was held in Milwaukee this past weekend and it was good to see everyone again.

Unfortunately, I was tied to the Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates exhibit booth most of the day Saturday -- except when we presented our program -- and I did not get a chance to see anyone else's program. I barely even took time to walk around the exhibits.

I did, however enjoy a couple of nice cigars in the lounge on Friday evening, and a very informal dinner with a bunch of fellow presenters on Saturday evening.

The shipwreck "game" as my friend David Trotter likes to call it, is populated by a real variety of characters. The guys from Great lakes Shipwreck Research Foundation really put their heart and soul into this program each year -- all on a volunteer basis. Kimm Stablefeldt and Brad Friend (and many others) deserve a lot of credit for providing this opportunity for all of us to get together. Frankly, it's a really good way to find out that we're all pretty nice people -- despite the sometimes ridiculous squabbling and one-upsmanship that goes on.

I understand that the legendary John Steele dropped in, but I missed the opportunity to say hello. I didn't have enough time to chat with folks like Bill Prince of Nordic Diver and even Paul Ehorn. I did speak with Harry Zych a few times and spent quite a bit of time with our good friends Ralph Wilbanks and Harry Pecorelli.

The hit of the trade show was obviously swimsuit model Rabecca Lee who was in the Deep Blue dive charter booth giving autographs. It was slightly distracting!

I made the trip with Ross Richardson and met up with Jack and Valerie van Heest --all co-directors of MSRA. It was a good time with good people. That's about all you can ask for.

28 February 2008

Details of Annual Shipwreck Show announced

The annual "Mysteries and Histories Beneath the Inland Seas" will be held on Saturday, May 3, 2008 at the Knickerbocker Theatre in downtown Holland. detaisl of the show may be found here: http://www.michiganshipwrecks.org/show.htm.

Dave trotter will be back, as will Ralph Wilbanks and the rest of the NUMA team sponsored by author Clive Cussler.

MSRA will present a program about identifying a schooner off the coast of Saugatuck as well as an update on the ongoing shipwreck quest.

Speaking of that, Clive Cussler's National Underwater & Marine Agency (NUMA)team should be arriving in West Michigan in late April (if the ice ever melts this year!) to cntinue the search for Northwest Airlines Flight 2501 which crashed into Lake Michigan on June 23, 1950. Ralph Wilbanks, Steve Howard and Hary Pecorelli will spend most of May, 2008 criss-crossing the area of the lake where the remains of the plane are expected to be located.

Watch this blog and for updates, but join MSRA as a supporter for personal email updates during the search -- even before we tell the media!

31 January 2008

My day on an Ice Breaker at the Straits of Mackinac

In mid January 2008, I received an email from Senior Chief Petty Officer Roland Ashby, a friend of a friend, with whom I have been diving a time or two. It seems Senior Chief Ashby was organizaing a mission for the organization "Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve". The purpose of this group is to remind and encourage business and civic leaders to fulfill their obligation to guardsmen and reservists who are serving our country by guaranteeing them their jobs upon their return from duty.

His invitation was to join a small group of business and civic leaders on a US Coast Guard icebreaking tug on a cruise in the Straits of Mackinac.

Now, if I had a "bucket list -- this just might be one of the items on it!

And because I was allowed to bring a friend, I immediately thought of fellow city councilmember Bob VandeVusse, boatnerd extraordinaire and sometime columnist for the Holland Sentinel on all things maritime.

So... at Oh-dark-thirty on the morning of Tuesday, January 29, 2008 he arrived at my home for the drive to the Army Reserve post in Grand Rapids. Upon our arrival we joined our driver -- an Army reservist who had been injured by an IED explosion in Iraq, ESGR organizer Paul Ryan of Fifth Third Bank in Grand Rapids, and four other folks who signed up for the cruise.

Now, here's where is gets fun. The National Guard had supplied a bus for this mission and it looked like a retired dial-a-ride bus from the 70s! The door didn't close tightly, the windows leaked and what little heat was generated, never got back past the driver's seat!

After a somewhat miserable 4.5 hour journey, punctuated by numerous cigarette breaks for the driver, gasoline breaks for the bus, potty and stretch breaks for the passengers and nearly-frost-bitten toes, we crossed the famous Mackinac Bridge, turned right and pulled into the the US Coast Guard's "Station St. Ignace".

After a UP Pastie lunch and a briefing on our trip and the ESGR mission, we boarded the 140 foot "Bay" class US Coast Guard cutter tug Biscayne Bay and headed out in open water, looking for ice!

Clearing the Graham Shoals we turned west and headed for the Maciinac Bridge. Hitting the thin ice for the first time was a hoot and the camera and video cameras came out in numbers. Bob and I took pictures of each other and grinned ear to ear over our good fortune to experience something that few other civilians would ever know.

West of the bridge we hit the thick ice -- about 12 inches of it. The aging tug cut through it like butter, while the relentless ice closed in behind us where ever we went. The noise of the steel hull slicing through a foot of ice was deafening!

All too soon it was over and the baby-faced "coastie" at the helm slid the cutter gently into it's dockage.

We boarded the bus for the trip home --having lost one of our intrepid voyagers to the comfort of Senior Chief Ashby's warm, dry car.

4 or 5 hours later we arrived, cold, damp, cramped and tired at the Reserve Post on Walker Avenue in Grand Rapids, and drove home in the rain, which turned to ice just when we pulled into the driveway. By morning there was a fresh six inches and drifts of two feet. Boy, had we dodged a weather-bullet on the way home!

All in all, a wonderful experience. Thanks go out to the US Coast Guard, the Michigan National Guard and the folks of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve organization --all volunteers who remind us all that a huge portion of our armed forces are civilian solidiers these days. Let's support them and encourage them by giving them the time to serve their country and guaranteeing them their jobs will be waiting when, God willing, they return to us. Thanks!

18 January 2008

Fred-Head (warning, politics follows!)

Well, I voted for Fred Thompson in the Michigan primary -- not that it did him much good. I hope he makes a good showing in South Carolina tomorrow. I'm pretty conservative and Fred seems to be the one perosn in the campaign who talks straight, has a sense of the real role of government provided in the constitution, and isn't a "completely over the edge" Libertarian who wouldn't stand a ghost of a chance of winning.

I like the curmudgeony, straight-talkin' way he handles himself. No pretty hair. No plastic face or smile. He's REAL. I think my new rule is, "Never vote for anyone for President unless he/she looks right wearing a cowboy hat. Plus, he's got a hot wife. ;-)