Don’t try to save the shipwrecks

The overflowing waters of Lake Huron and her angry waves have caused their fair share of havoc this fall and winter. Parks have flooded. Shorelines have eroded. Breakwalls have failed. Waters have reached far into the places people normally frolic.

And the big lake has pushed shipwrecks normally hidden in her depths far up onto shore, where they’ve been exposed to the sun and air, weakening the wood, which has then been further battered by waves.

Reporter Crystal Nelson last week brought us one such story: The remains of the wrecked Joseph S. Fay have been pushed inland some 25 feet from their original location off the coast at the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse. The remains are now up against the tree line, where waves and wind are bringing evergreens down on top of the wreck.

It’s a sad and concerning story, but we would like to highlight one quote from lighthouse Caretaker Eric Klein: What’s happening now is “just part of its natural progression,” Klein told Nelson.

Indeed, we view our shipwrecks in Northeast Michigan as treasured museum pieces, because they are part of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. But the sanctuary is a living museum, part of the elements, where its exhibits are susceptible to wind and waves and currents and even wildlife. They are preserved, but ever-changing.

That means the wrecks are still exhibits, even when they’re beating thrust into the tree lines. And museum rules still apply: Look, but don’t touch.

If you see a shipwreck or suspected shipwreck on the shoreline, leave it be. Call the sanctuary and let them assess and address the situation.

— The Alpena News


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