Shipwreck Site Could Be State’s 1st Underwater Preserve

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September 17, 2013 — A shipwreck 28 feet under the surface of Lake Michigan could become Indiana’s first underwater nature preserve.  The Indiana Natural Resource Commission votes today on its designation.

The ship J.D. Marshall was constructed in 1891 to haul timber across Lake Michigan.  It sank on June 11, 1911 in the waters of Lake Michigan just off the shore of the Indiana Dunes State Park. 

Salvagers tried to raise the ship in the 1980s, but Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources Lake Michigan Coastal Program Director Mike Molnar says something went wrong, “The ship refloat didn’t work out so well, and the chains that were holding it broke, and she sank back to the bottom again.”

There are more than 5,000 shipwrecks in Lake Michigan and about 200 in Indiana’s waters.

The DNR has surveyed about a dozen of them, so Indiana Dunes State Park Nature Interpreter Brad Bumgardner says if 100 acres around the J.D. Marshall become an underwater preserve, it could be used to teach people about its own history and the history behind numerous other ships most people won’t ever see.

“And this is kind of something that is intangible. A lot of folks will never really actually go to that shipwreck but by learning about it and learning the story they’ll hopefully then want to protect it.”

If the Commission approves the preserve, it will be marked with buoys so boaters know not to anchor their boats in the area.  The site would be open to divers, and the designation would make it a crime to take any artifacts from the ship.

(From Emily Wright)


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