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Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

underwater propNOAA Opens New Maritime Heritage Center

NOAA opened the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena, Mich. The center will be a popular destination for visitors and residents, a major resource for educators and researchers throughout the region, and serve as the new sanctuary headquarters. The 20,000-square-foot facility features a 90-seat theater, 9,000-square-foot exhibit area, distance learning equipment, artifact conservation lab, viewable artifact storage, education and research facilities and dockage for research vessels and visiting tall ships.

The center is also on track to become a certified sustainable building. 

Artifacts Moved to Heritage Center

In 2005, the process of moving the State of Michigan’s collection of 800 shipwreck artifacts to the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center began in earnest. Additionally, private owners donated over two dozen recovered shipwreck artifacts and family heirlooms back to the sanctuary now that they are assured the items will remain in the community. Artifacts will be used in exhibits at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, displayed in visible storage areas, or loaned to other museums throughout the region. 

The sanctuary program and the Alpena County Library received a $260,000 grant from the Michigan Department of History, Arts, and Libraries to digitize a large archival collection donated by Patrick Labadie and June Perry in 2003. Among other media, the collection boasts an impressive 60,000 ship photographs. Eventually, the collection will be made available to the public via the Internet 

Students, Teachers Train on Tall Ships

The site sponsored teacher training aboard the tall ship SV Denis Sullivan and assisted teachers with designing and assembling remotely operated vehicles during an annual workshop. Additionally, over 500 students participated in educational sails. Real-time, interactive broadcasts from the deck of the Sullivan reached an additional 600 students in a single day. Public sails on various Michigan-based tall ships and the sanctuary’s Fifth Annual Thunder Bay Maritime Festival introduced several thousand northeastern Michigan residents to the shipwrecks and maritime history of Thunder Bay.

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Sea Cadets Get a Once in a Lifetime Experience

The sanctuary continues to develop programming with the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, Great Lakes Division. The Sea Cadet program is dedicated to helping American youth realize personal success and achievement through a maritime training program. In 2006 the sanctuary and the Sea Cadet program will undertake a pilot initiative to assess the potential for annual Alpena-based summer program. During the July and August 2005 training cruises aboard their 80-foot training vessel Pride of Michigan, the cadets logged 444 dives, nearly half of which were in Thunder Bay. Notably, the Pride of Michigan served as a dive platform for Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Future Society camera team while they filmed a segment for an upcoming television special about the National Marine Sanctuary Program. The unforgettable experience for the cadets was made possible by this unique partnership.

Field Schools Provide Real-life Archaeology Experience

With its wide range of shipwrecks types and locations, 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 students documented the remains with scaled drawings and photography. The data will be added to the sanctuary’s shipwreck database and will help sanctuary staff develop management strategies for protecting these shipwrecks. Because the sites are in shallow water, the data will eventually be used to create a waterproof “shipwreck trail” guide for kayakers and snorkelers.

The sanctuary also hosted a 10-day field school for graduate students from the University of Rhode Island’s Institute for Archaeological Oceanography. The aim of this multi-disciplinary project is to develop a better understanding of how the natural environment is affecting sanctuary shipwrecks. Nearly 200 targets were detected by sonar in a three square mile area off Thunder Bay’s North Point. This initial phase of the multi-year project also included a pedestrian coastal survey of North Point and identification of microbial communities on wooden shipwrecks in different environmental settings.

thunder bay mapPlans for 2006

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. The site received 35 additional permits to install shipwreck mooring buoys in 2006. Staff continue to develop programming with the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, a national program aimed at helping American youth realize personal achievement through maritime training. The site and Sea Cadet program will undertake a pilot initiative to look at the potential for an annual Alpena-based summer program.

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Revised September 12, 2023 by Sanctuaries Web Team | Contact Us | Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service
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