04 June 2009

Wow! Long time no update!

The annual "Mysteries & Histories Beneath the Inland seas" event in Holland was a huge success. MSRA raised enought money to fund another ten day Shipwreck Quest -- this time in prime territory for both the Chicora and the Andaste. but alas, no exciting discoveries this time.

Shipwreck hunting's successes are just the punctuation marks that come after extremely long run-on sentences called surveying. For every ten days spent towing a sidescan sonar at 3.5 miles per hour 20 miles out in Lake Michigan, we might discover one or two smudges that need further investigation. If one of them turns out to be something ever moderately interesting, THAT's a good year!

MSRA will spend the summer looking at a couple of those smudges and will tout our discoveries to our members through the quarterly newsletter "The Explorer". Join MSRA to be a part of the excitement!

26 March 2009

It's showtime!

Just back from Ghostships in Milwaukee and looking forward to the MSRA show on April 25. "Mysteries & Histories Beneath the Inland Seas" is at the Knickerbocker Theatre in Holland, Michigan at 7:00 pm. Doors open at 6:00 pm for book signings and raffle ticket sales. Cris Kohl & Joan Forsburg along with David Trotter will present. MSRA itself will havetwo programs. See www.michiganshipwrecks.org for more info.

25 January 2009

2009 Shipwreck Show date set!

The 2009 "Mysteries and Histories Beneath the Inland Seas" event will be held on Saturday, April 25, 2009 at Holland, Michigan's historic Knickerbocker Theatre. The show starts at 7:00 pm and includes presentations by MSRA, David Trotter and Cris Kohl & Joan Forsberg.

Tickets are available at www.michiganshipwrecks.org.

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. ;-)

31 December 2007

Annual MSRA Shipwreck Show date announced

Oh, I almost forgot! Put Saturday, May 3, 2008 on your calendar for the annual "Evening Beneath The Inland Seas" shipwreck show at the Knickerbocker Theatre in downtown Holland, michigan.

MSRA will present, along with Clive Cussler's right hand man and shipwreck hunter Ralph Wilbanks. Others will be announced. Probably Dave Trotter and maybe even one or two others! Don't miss it!

Plus, MSRA will be presenting again at GhostShips in Milwaukee March 7 & 8, 2008.

Ice diving vs. writing books

I don't tend to spend a lot of time underwater this time of year like I used to. Heck, ten years ago Doug Welsch and I would grab the chain saw, cut a big triangle in the ice of Lake 16 in Allegan County and jump in!

Looking back that was a bit crazy, but...we were a lot younger then, too. I guess the worst part about it was there's just one way out -- the same way you went in. Lose your way, and you die. No questions. Even worse than a typical shipwreck.

Not only that, but Doug and I used to do it with just the two of us, which was sort of stupid. The prescribed methed of ice diving is to have two divers in the water, two safety divers (the 2nd team) and one surface tender.

The two divers in the water are tethered to each other, and then to a line leading to the hole. The tender keeps the line in his hand secured to a stake which we used to pound through the ice and then put a cotter pin through so it can't be pulled out.

If the team in the water lost the line, they were taught to surface to the ice and stay put. The tender would feel the slack and deploy the 2nd team with a slightly longer line. That team would go straight out and scribe a circle with their line, hopefully sweeping up the lost divers on the way. We practiced this drill but never had to use it, thank God!

These days, my winter Sunday afternoons are spent putting the finishing touches on my first book. It's called, "FOR THOSE IN PERIL: Shipwrecks of Ottawa County, Michigan". This book started out as a database of local shipwrecks, but when fleshed out, began to resemble a book. "What the heck", I thought, "I wonder if anyone would actually like to read this?"

So, watch for it in 2008. And let me know if you'd like a copy. it'll probably sell for about $14.99.

13 September 2007

Talk like a WHAT?


And, don't be forgettin' that September 19 be "Talk Like A Pirate" day or we'll be keel-haulin' yer ass!

12 September 2007


No, not the guy with the Ark, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Seems they lost track of an expensive peice of equipment in Lake Michigan and asked us to locate it for them. We did. They recovered it. Done deal.

I'm sure they paid King Salvage a lot of money to wrench it out of the sand. They didn't pay us anything. Oh well. It's nice to do favors for people....

17 June 2007

What a week!

Dave Trotter was here for 9 days and, for the first time in nine years, we had perfect weather every day! The lake was glassy calm with no wind and no rain.

I spent 24 hours on the lake with Trotter and Jack van Heest. We started out on Saturday, June 16, 2007 at 10:30 am and went all day and all night. We arriver back home on Sunday at 11AM.

The shipwrecks eluded us this year but we must have covered another 35-40 square miles of bottomland.

We were using the 5o khz fish (side scan sonar) and specifically looking for large vessels, nothing small. We covered a tremedous amount of territory. Better luck next year!

23 May 2007

Northwest Airlines Flight 2501 crash site still elusive

The NUMA crew has left West Michigan and flight 2501 remains elusive. Windy weather plagued the search this year, with only about 14 days of coverage during the month long search period. Ralph Wilbanks says they'll be back in 2008.

The MSRA 2008 shipwreck quest happens June 9-17 this year, with David Trotter joining the team for a ten day search period. Our target: The Andaste!

12 May 2007

Annual shipwreck show

MSRA's annual shipwreck show "Mysteries & Histories beneath the Inland Seas" was a success. the May 5, 2007 event attracted about 250 people to Holland, Michigan's Knickerbocker theatre. Funds raised are used to finance the annual "Shipwreck Quest" -- this year focused on the discovery of the Andaste which sank in Lake Michigan in 1929.

The highlight of the show was a $1,000 grant presentation by Kimm Stablefeldt of Great Lakes Shipwreck Research Foundation to assist MSRA in documenting the Hennepin, discovered in 2006. The Hennepin will be the subject of a National Register of Historic Places application.

22 March 2007


This weekend is the Ghostships festival in Milwaukee. Stop by and introduce yourself!

MSRA is presenting two programs on Saturday and we hope to see you there.

04 March 2007

2007 schedule

Ralph Wilbanks and the NUMA team will be arriving late in April to begin the 2007 search for Northwest Airlines Flight 2501 -- the DC-4 airliner which crashed into Lake Michigan June 23, 1950. MSRA members will team up with the NUMA crew to explore the lake bottom with side scan sonar throughout the onth of May.

Then, in June, Dave Trotter arrives to team up with MSRA in the first effort to locate the wreck of the Andaste. The Andaste is next on the list after MSRA members discovered the H.C. Akeley in 2001, the SS Michigan in 2005 and the Hennepin in 2006. After a season of hard work, and a little bit of luck, hopefully we will have another discovery to talk about this year.

12 February 2007

A web log about Great Lakes shipwrecks?

Well, it's probably not the first.

This is where I will catalog the expeditions launched by Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates -- a non-profit Michigan-based group whose missin it is to research, discover, and document historic shipwrecks on the Great Lakes. We've had some success over the years but the search goes on.

2007 will mark the retuern of Ralph Wilbanks, Steve Howard and Harry Peccorelli of Clive Cussler's NUMA organization as we again combine forces to search for the lost DC-4 airliner known as Northwest Airlines Flight 2501.

Following that David Trotter will arrive for a week-long search for the remains of the semi-whaleback Andaste.

Stay tuned for updates and opportunities to get involved!