Lakeshore News Tonight

Indiana’s First Underwater Natural Preserve in Region

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October 1, 2012 — Indiana has its first underwater nature preserve today, and it’s at the Indiana Dunes State Park.

The preserve received its dedication yesterday, and one of the first artifacts on display was the J.D. Marshall shipwreck.  Its remnants on the floor of Lake Michigan are the site of the new nature preserve.

Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources honored the memory of the captain and his crew for the hundred-year-old underwater treasure.

Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Program Manager Mike Molnar says, “The ship is about 800 yards off shore … and the preserve that was established starts about 600 yards off shore.”

Molnar says “The J.D. Marshall started out as a timber hauler moving timber from the forest to the mills.  It was later converted over to what was called the sand sucker.”

The Park Interpretive Naturalist Brad Bumgardner says, “The J.D. Marshall was a crew of 10 captained by Captain Leroy Rand and first mate Martin Donahue.”

Molnar says it is important to preserve the shipwreck area because it is Indiana’s first underwater preserve, ” The site will be marked with buoys so people know where it is and then also the area within the marked preserve anchoring will be banned.”  Molnar says boaters can go within the marked off areas, but the Department of Natural Resources says they will not be allowed to drop anchor in the area to protect the ancient ship from further damage.

Molnar says, “We’re preserving the maritime history of the coastal.  Area ships like the Marshall were 18-wheelers of their time.  They were hauling goods across the great lakes.  It’s important because it’s a part of their history, it’s Hoosier heritage that we have in the water.  The ship sailed for over 20 years, when it went down, and there were four lives lost.”

Bumgardner says people are welcome to see artifacts and learn about the ship’s history through educational programs at the Indiana Dunes State Park Nature Center. “Otherwise it’s kind of an intangible resource;  it’s something that most people will never see unless they are a professional diver.”

Molner says the history of the J.D Marshall will live on, and only a few people will have the opportunity to see it because it is entirely underwater and requires professional skills to navigate to the actual shipwreck site.  For those without the skills and diving gear, images are on display at the Indiana Dunes State Park Nature Center.  Archaeologists says there are many more ships that sank in Indiana’s nearly 300 square-mile radius, but most of the underwater wreckage has been swallowed by sand or flattened by waves and ice.

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