The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week officially designated a 962-square-mile/2,492-square-kilometer area of Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan as a national marine sanctuary.
The Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary will protect 36 historically significant shipwrecks and related maritime heritage resources, 21 of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Well-preserved by Lake Michigan’s cold, fresh water, several of the known shipwrecks are essentially intact and look much like they did when they sank. The area also includes Wisconsin’s two oldest known shipwrecks, and archival research suggests there may be dozens more yet to be discovered.
Spanning the early 1800s through the 20th century, the shipwrecks represent a cross-section of vessel types that played critical roles in transforming the Great Lakes from a maritime frontier into the USA’s busiest waterway. The ships carried grain and raw materials east as other vessels traveled west loaded with coal, manufactured goods, and settlers.
NOAA and the state of Wisconsin will co-manage the sanctuary.
According to Nicole LeBoeuf, acting director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service:
“The designation of this sanctuary is a milestone for NOAA, Wisconsin, and the nation. This new sanctuary opens the door to world-class research, educational opportunities, and tourism for generations to come.”
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers said:
“We’re really excited about NOAA’s announcement. The designation builds on 30 years of maritime heritage preservation by the State of Wisconsin and will create exciting new opportunities in education, recreation, and tourism in our coastal communities.”
Kris Sarri, president and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, said:
“I want to congratulate Governor Evers and Secretary Raimondo for designating Wisconsin Shipwreck National Marine Sanctuary to protect our Great Lakes’ maritime heritage. The sanctuary will foster new opportunities for exploration, education, research, and tourism that benefit the state’s coastal communities and bring increased attention to the Great Lakes role in the growth of our Nation.”
For more info, check out the video below or go to sanctuaries.noaa.gov.
(Image credit: Tamara Thomsen, Wisconsin Historical Society)