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2005 Highlights

Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center Grand Opening and 5th Anniversary

image2On September 17, 2005, the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary celebrated its fifth anniversary by dedicating the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, with over 1,000 citizens attending the open house.  The 20,000 square-foot Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center houses a 93-seat theater, 9,000 square-foot exhibit area, distance learning equipment, artifact conservation lab, viewable artifact storage, education and research facilities, dockage for research vessels and visiting tall ships, and the sanctuary’s administrative offices.  The center is also on track to become a Gold Certified “LEED” (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building.

The sanctuary’s 5th Anniversary gala dinner took place in the evening and included the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation presenting U.S. Senator Carl Levin and sanctuary volunteer Betty Krueger with the 2005 National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s Stewardship Award for their dedication and support of the sanctuary. Dr. Robert Ballard served as master of ceremonies and demonstrated “telepresence” technology- talking live with divers in Monterey Bay, California, to the 320 dinner guests.

The complex is now being developed as a mixed-use project that includes a hotel, conference center, paper-making museum (with an original two story high, 150-foot long paper-making machine as a centerpiece), and retail shops. The Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center is the cornerstone of the development and the sanctuary is spearheading educational and tourism amenities on the property such as a maritime theme playground, shore side interpretive markers, interactive weatherproof kiosk, sailors memorial and dock facilities for sailing and kayaking clubs. Click here for informational flyer (pdf)


image4New “Green” Research Vessel Joins Thunder Bay Fleet

In 2005, the NOAA research vessel Huron Explorer made a 350 mile trip from Muskegon, Michigan, to its new home at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The 41-foot utility boat served the U.S. Coast Guard for 30 years before being retrofitted by NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab for sanctuary research. Shortly after its arrival in Alpena, Huron Explorer began its transformation into an environmentally friendly craft. The first vessel in the United States to use all natural oil-based fuel and lubricants, Huron Explorer operates without any petroleum products and is a working demonstration of the merits of bio-products in the marine environment.  The Huron Explorer was recently awarded the U.S. Department of Energy’s You Have the Power Award.

Thunder Bay Exhibits

image6In 2005, the sanctuary received over 15,000 visitors to its temporary exhibit at Alpena’s Federal Building. These exhibits have been relocated to the new Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, and work is underway to design permanent exhibits for the 9,000 square feet of exhibit space at the center. Other completed exhibits include a traveling display for dive shows and community events, shore-side historical markers on the Thunder Bay River, displays at the Alpena County Airport and the Holiday Inn, “Welcome to Alpena” signs at main thoroughfares into the city, and historical and underwater photos decorating local businesses.

Deep Water Shipwreck Survey

In August 2005, with funding from NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration, the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary conducted an expedition aimed at documenting deepwater shipwrecks within the sanctuary. The two week project focused primarily on two sites: an unidentified two-masted schooner located by Dr. Robert Ballard’s Institute for Exploration in 2001; and the wooden passenger steamer Pewabic, which sank in 1865. Both wrecks rest in 160 feet of water.  Using mixed gas diving techniques the team created detailed, high resolution photomosaics of both sites. The dramatic visual products from the project are being used for exhibits in NOAA’s new Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, where non-divers can visit these remarkable historic sites for themselves.





Field Schools

With its wide range of shipwreck types and genres located in water depths from 0 to 200 feet, the sanctuary offers an excellent setting for students to hone their maritime archaeology skills. In June 2005, seven graduate students from East Carolina University’s Program in Maritime Studies spent two weeks documenting shipwreck remains on Thunder Bay’s North Point Reef.   The sanctuary hosted and collaborated on a 10-day field school for graduate students from the University of Rhode Island’s Institute for Archaeological Oceanography. In cooperation with the PAST Foundation, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary conducted an archaeological field investigation of the Middle Island Life Saving Station in July 2005.

Weather Buoy and Meteorological Station

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) successfully placed an Integrated Coastal Obimage10serving System buoy in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary at the shipwreck Montana, nine miles from shore.  The buoy provides real-time meteorological data that will improve NOAA’s National Weather Service marine forecasts for Thunder Bay. Ultimately, the information will be available via a shore-side kiosk for sanctuary boaters. The buoy’s proximity to the Montana will allow archaeologists to monitor the shipwreck’s environmental conditions and provide real-time shipwreck imagery for visitors at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center. The Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab also mounted a meteorological station at the entrance to the Thunder Bay River. The station provides real-time weather data and has a camera that continuously generates three real-time views of Thunder Bay. The information is accessible at: www.glerl.noaa.gov/metdata/apn


Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary has added to the number of high quality documentaries produced in 2005.  In addition to the 2003 film, Tragedies in the Mist, three other independent productions were filmed in 2005, including the Science Channel’s Great Lakes Shipwrecks, a History Channel’s Deep Sea Detectives episode on the schooner Cornelia B. Windiate, and Jean Michel Cousteau’s PBS America’s Underwater Treasures documentary on the National Marine Sanctuary Program.

Tall Ship Programs

image12Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary has used shipboard education whenever the opportunity arose.  Half-day programs on the schooner Denis Sullivan have been a key component of TBNMS’s education offerings.  Over 500 students sailed on Thunder Bay on these trips in 2005 alone. Public sails on various other tall ships including Windy II, Appledore, and Friends Good Will also exposed hundreds of northeastern Michigan residents to the shipwrecks and maritime history of Thunder Bay over the past year.  In 2005, the annual Thunder Bay Maritime Festival also featured deck tours of many tall ships from around the region and the world. 

Live Dives

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary has developed a number of innovative ways to give non-divers the opportunity to visit Thunder Bay’s shipwrecks without getting wet.  While the new Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center is equipped with traditional distance learning, Thunder Bay’s video conferencing technology and Live Dive broadcasts have taken distance learning to new levels. Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin partnered with TBNMS in the 2005 Live Dives, which were hosted on the deck of the schooner Denis Sullivan in Thunder Bay. In a single day, the event was broadcast directly into classrooms around Michigan and Wisconsin, reaching over 600 students. The Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center is now equipped with Internet 2 capability, which will enable sanctuary educators to reach more classrooms with a greater variety of content.

ROV Team

image14Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary has brought a national focus to the area through a partnership with the Marine Advanced Technology Education Center (MATE) National ROV building competition for high school students.  Beginning with sponsoring one local team in 2001, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s involvement with MATE brought a regional qualifying ROV building competition to Alpena in 2005.  This event drew teams from around the Great Lakes to the sanctuary for a qualifying competition for the international MATE event.  This is an incredible program that inspires high school students to pursue marine technology careers, and has continued to expand in 2006. For an information flyer, click here (pdf, 1.9MB).


Mooring Buoys

The installation of permanent mooring buoys near popular recreational dive sites greatly reduces the likelihood of anchoring damage to submerged maritime heritage resources and natural features. Permanent mooring buoys also improve diver safety by providing continuous down and ascent lines, as well as supplemental guidelines to the sites. In 2005, the sanctuary maintained its ten current shipwreck moorings and applied for and received 35 additional buoy permits from the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Click here for more information: Shipwreck Mooring Buoy Program

Shipwreck Artifacts and Conservation

The Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries Office of the State Archaeologist curates a significant collection of materials recovered from shipwrecks in Michigan waters. Over 800 objects were recovered from sites in the Great Lakes, 340 of which were recovered from 20 different shipwrecks in Lake Huron including the sanctuary shipwrecks Pewabic, Grecian, and Nordmeer. The majority of these artifacts were stored at the Michigan Historical Center in Lansing, Michigan. In 2005, the process of moving this entire collection to the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center began with the transportation of dozens of Pewabic artifacts.  Many of these items are now on display in the Center’s visible artifact storage exhibit, while others are being prepared for conservation.

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary Research Collection Archived

Donated in 2003 by Patrick Labadie and June Perry, the Thunder Bay Sanctuary Research Collection is a unique Great Lakes maritime history resource. Among other items, the collection boasts an impressive 60,000 ship photographs, 20,000 vessel index cards, 1,000 published works and hundreds of drawings and blueprints. The collection is housed at and co-managed by the Alpena County Library. In 2005, the sanctuary and the Alpena County Library received a $235,000 grant from the Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries to digitize a major portion of the collection and make it accessible online. To learn more - click here


For more information on these and other activities of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary see: www.thunderbay.noaa.gov.



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