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June 2008 Vol 12

Letter From the Board Dear MSRA Members,

Clive Cussler Joins the Search

What a fabulous first half of the year for MSRA and its members! We have an exhibit that will run through the balance of the year. We’ve published one book, ICEBOUND!, and another in the works “From Hennepin to the Thousand Footers.” We’ve located twoshipwrecks already this year. NUMA will be returning in 2009. The Hennepin was listed on the National Register. We have continued collaborations with a number of individuals and begin new collaborations. Many more members are becoming involved in research and other activities of the organization. MSRA is now an official 501c3 charitable organization. AND Clive Cussler was here to meet with the team! Check out the newsletter filled with lots of pictures and great new information. Let’s work together to complete the year with a rousing success!

Valerie van Heest Director, MSRA

The NUMA team arrived in mid April to begin the 5th expedition to locate the remains of Flight 2501. One week into the search, Clive Cussler, head of NUMA and the man who has been funding the search effort for the past four years, arrived in South Haven to join Ralph Wilbanks, Steve Howard, and newest crewmember, Cameron Fletcher, aboard the search vessel in hopes of finally locating the DC-4. Clive sure brought luck! On his very first day out, the team located three targets. It was clear that two are most certainly shipwrecks based on the side scan images. (see page 3) It was unclear what the third might be. Additional scanning suggested it was a small airplane-- not a DC-4 though. Only a dive would confirm what it really was. (Story on page 2) After an amazing day of search success, Clive and his team journeyed up to the van Heest’s house for a dinner and a team meeting. The MSRA Board, the technical dive team, David Trotter, Chriss Lyon and Kevin McGregor ,who had flown his own plane in from Colorado to reenact the final flight path of Flight 2501, (Full story page 4) enjoyed hearing stores of shipwreck hunting from the grand master himself, Clive Cussler! Con’t next page

The Explorer is a regular publication of MSRA distributed via email. For more information visit Page 1

Clive Joins the Search

Valerie van Heest and Craig Rich look over Ralph Wilbank’s shoulders with great interest to see the first images captured of two new shipwrecks.

Con’t from page 1

Clive spent about three days on the water working towards a discovery of Flight 2501, but then headed off to Europe for a book tour. The NUMA team stayed on for a total of almost six weeks this spring, two weeks longer that they had ever worked here before. We were initially concerned that they arrived too early in April. We did not expect the weather would cooperate, but we had nearly ten days of uninterrupted good weather upon their arrival. Fortunately for Clive, he was here during that beautiful streak of flat, warm days on the lake. Then May got nasty! Maybrought vrey unusual, cold, windy weather this year. Despite having two extra weeks, NUMA only got about 20 good days on the lake. They did have some new equipment and revised search methodology that allowed them to cover about two square miles per day, nearly double what they could accomplish in previous years. Over five search seasons, the team has covered over 120 square miles. BUT...still no Fight 2501. We have expended all theories, all weather suppositions, and all witness accounts. It is now just a matter of expanding out from areas already covered. We are grateful that Clive Cussler and his son Dirk, who together run NUMA, have agreed to at least one more season. It will eventually be found, and we must have patience. As Clive always says : “Wrecks will be found when theywant to be found!” The World’s most legendary shipwreck hunter and the Great Lake’s most legendary shipwreck hunter swap stores of ships gone missing. They both agree Flight 2501 apparently is not yet ready to be found.

Everyone enjoyed getting their books signed. The van Heest’s daughters nervously approached Clive with their copy of “Vin Fizz” and were overjoyed to get Clive’s autograph.

Off the Radar - Discovery of the “Airplane” Target by Chriss Lyon

Even someone who has never seems a side scan, would think this is an airplane. The NUMA team, MSRA team and David Trotter all anticipated that dives would reveal a small, single engine airplane. Then the research began. Read Chriss’ story “Off the Radar” to see what really was discovered!

The excitement of Clive Cussler and NUMA coming to town spread throughout West Michigan rapidly but even more so within MSRA. With many promising days of Lake Michigan searching at the end of April and first part of May, everyone was eager to hear from Ralph Wilbanks. And those magic words, “we found a target” emerged one day late in April that gave team-members Valerie, Jack, Craig, and Ross something to get excited about. After Ralph and the NUMA team made a few more passes of a small target off of South Haven, they brought back a sonar image to share with the group. The tiny laptop screen contained a sepia-toned image that appeared to be a small plane. The cross wing, the tail piece, the nose. It appeared to be lying flat on the bottom like it had just gently floated there. The image also had “ribbing” of the wings appearing that they might have worn from the back leaving much to speculate on what could have possibly brought down this small plane. The size and location gave other clues and from research that Ross had already done, we knew of three small planes that had already gone down in this general area. Could it have been one of them? As more emails and phone calls transpired between each other, detailed discussion took place as to the possible identity of this plane. It became clear that one specifically stood out as being a very good possibility and I took the information that Ross collected and went into genealogy mode. Ultimately if this plane had been found, MSRA would need to contact the NTSB and family members of the deceased so this would give them a jump start. On October 10, 1979 a Piper PA-24 single-engine aircraft left Palmyra, Wisconsin piloted by Stewart Greger enroute to Detroit, Michigan for a business meeting. When the plane was about 25 miles west of South Haven, air traffic controllers in Chicago lost contact with him and although Coast Guard rescue crews were sent immediately from the surrounding areas, nothing was ever located. No plane, no body, no wreckage. The information that Ross gathered from just one UPI article in a South Haven newspaper was enough to give me the chills. If no wreckage was ever found of this plane crash, it would lead one to believe that it sunk to the bottom in one piece, just like the image appeared Page 2

Off The Radar - Con’t from Page 2 on the sonar. As emails began circulating between Valerie, Kevin and me, the technical end seemed to match up and I needed to find out more about the pilot, Stewart Greger. As I started my basic genealogical search, I immediately was coming up empty handed, which was somewhat surprising. Given the name was not at all common, I figured that I would uncover some basic vital records. Newspaper archival searches also proved fruitless and after a long night of searching, I had determined that Stewart Greger did not exist. Going back to the original source was the South Haven newspaper and after making a trip to the library and pulling up the microfilm for the day in question, I confirmed that it indeed was listed as Stewart Greger, aged 39. I also found several more articles from previous days, all with the same spelling of the name. Taking this one step further, I checked the Herald-Palladium newspaper archives at the St. Joseph library and found a small article buried in the newspaper. The name was Stewart Draeger. My thought at the time can be summed up by stealing a phrase from Dave Trotter, “BINGO”. I called Valerie from my cell phone as soon as I bolted out of the library doors and without saying “Hello” or “Hey, it’s Chriss”, I just yelled out, “It’s Draeger”. Of course I immediately got home and start plugging the name in every database I could think of. But again….Stewart Draeger did not exist. Frustration is a very family-friendly word I will use here to explain what I was feeling after all, these articles are from reputable reporters from the UPI and the AP. Neither reporter could agree on the name nor did the person exist. As a genealogist and researcher, I know for a fact that everyone leaves a paper trail of some sort if you’ve lived long enough. By this time, Valerie and Kevin had been working on finding the original NTSB reports. One night the three of us had a conference phone call and while Kevin and Valerie were pulling up the crash report in hopes of finding out which name was correct, I logged onto my various databases with my trigger fingers ready to go. As the report came up, the name appeared: Stewart Dreger. With trigger fingers already firing away, the true identity appeared: Stuart T. Dreger Target A: While at first glance December 16, 1939 – October 10, 1979 this appears to be a nearly Palmyra, Wisconsin intact vessel, lack of shadows Stuart Thiel Dreger was a 1963 graduate of MIT and ironically his 35th class reunion is being means it has very little relief held this month. Although have just started to learn about him, more will come with the social security off the bottom. death records that have been ordered. We are hoping to learn about his family and any descendants that he may have so that we can share with them any information we may obtain regarding this tragic loss. In mid-May Valerie, Jack, Jeff, Todd and Bob made a dive to confirm the identity of the plane. Confident with our hunches and with all the research, the divers descended one cold but sunny afternoon to the depth of 160’. As the image came closer in view, it became very apparent it was not a plane, it was much too small. The zebra-mussel encrusted cross-shaped object was just that; a cross. Two pieces of wood placed in the form of a cross. The divers quickly left the site to save precious mixed-gas and to limit their exposure to the cold. They were not able to determine whether the two pieces were fashioned together. How did this object, or objects get out there and how could this been mistaken for a plane? Sometimes we see what we want to see, not what is really there. Although we might not know how this symbol got there or why it is there, I have always believed that if you pay attention, you will receive signs that you are on the right track. This cross can be viewed as a reminder on why we are all doing this; the spiritual side of it. A reminder for me is when we fail to document the lives of people accurately; their lives go off the radar. In the case of the real Stuart Dreger who existed for a short 39 years was barely documented while those Target B: No this is not half a ship. representing him do not exist. These are the ones we as historians are left to follow and we must The extreme width tells us that the preserve their memories by honoring their names….their true names. This just makes us all have ship has been filleted open. more ambition to find Stuart Dreger and his plane. —Chriss Lyon


Dive’s on the New Wrecks Pose More Questions than Answers In early June the MSRA dive team made first dives to the two new wrecks pictured above left. As the side scans indicate, they are both considerably decayed. The stern section of target A may be buried. The timbers of the forward section leave little identifying features. There is only 58’ of ship visible above the sand. MSRA is planning future dives in hopes of at least determining if this is a steamer or schooner. Target B is most certainly a steamer. A boiler, small engine and blade of the prop just above the sand identify this as a steamer. If future measurements put the length around 152’, then we can surmise this to be the Joseph P. Farnam, which burned and eventually sank in 1898. Again, many dives will be needed to fully document this wreck. Stay tuned. Page 3

Grant From GLSRF In the last issue of The Explorer, you read that MSRA was awarded a grant from the Great Lakes Shipwreck Research Foundation in Wisconsin. One of the three founding members, Kimm Stabelfeldt was scheduled to present the grant at MSRA annual film festival, however, other commitments got in the way. Instead, he mailed the check, which was opened at the event: $1000.00 !!!!! These funds will be directed towards documentation of the two newly discovered shipwrecks. Many thanks to the GLSRF for their continued support!

Flight 2501....Recreated

Captain Kevin McGregor, one of a two-man team who discovered the remains of Northwest Flight 4422 on Mt. Sanford in Alaska, has been lending his research and piloting skills to MSRA in our search for Flight 2501. In late April he flew from his home in Colorado in his Cessna Turbo 210 to the Park Township Airport near our home to re-fly the final flight path of Flight 2501 to help us understand the challenges Captain Lind faced on June 23, 1950. On April 21st, Kevin took off with his “crew,” yours truly, Craig Rich and Chriss Lyon. We headed off towards Battle Creek to “begin’ the flight. The day was clear and calm, unlike the stormy night brewing in 1950. We recreated the transmission that took place from Lind to ATC when over Battle Creek, continued flying towards Benton Harbor, then recreated the final transmission in which Lind requested clearance to 2500 feet, but was denied and told to maintain 3500. We continued on over the lake at 3500 feet towards the area where the NUMA crew was searching. We discovered that even on a clear sunny day, it is nearly impossible to discern water from horizon when far off shore. We imagined how disorienting it must have been for pilots, Lind and Wolfe to have been flying at night in a storm. We were able to locate the search boat and then quickly turned an headed back to shore, glad that we had no problems that far out into the lake. MSRA wishes to express our deepest thanks to Kevin for his dedication to this project. -- VvH

MSRA Presents Two Going Overboard Awards Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates inaugurated the “Going Overboard” award in 2006 to recognize outstanding contributions to the organization. Honorees do not have to discover a shipwreck or donate a lot of m o n e y . Each has contributed in his or her own personal way their expertise, their time and their talents to further the organization’s goals.

Chriss Lyon received a 2008 “Going Overboard” award for her research in connection with Flight 2501. An MSRA member for less than a year, she has worked closely with MSRA director Valerie van Heest to locate families of Flight 2501 victims and has contributed other research on the accident. Chriss also is researching a number of shipwrecks and other small plane crashes and has been filming many of MSRA’s expeditions. As a native of St. Joseph, Michigan, Chriss was born into maritime history. With an innate curiosity of tragedy and unsolved mysteries nurtured by two grandmothers with a passion for genealogy and local history, Chriss evolved from the family historian into a forensic genealogist and investigative researcher for several nationally-known authors and projects. A graduate of Lake Michigan College and Grand Valley State University, Chriss studied Film/ Video Production and worked in the cable news and radio industry before joining the Berrien County Public Safety Communications Center in 1995 as a 911 Supervisor where she has worked ever since. When not handling shootings, suicides, robberies and wanted subjects on traffic stops, Chriss spends her time researching and writing about gangsters in Southwest Michigan, browsing through cemetery sexton records, scouring newspaper articles for clues on various shipwrecks in Lake Michigan

Robert Doornbos received a 2008 MSRA “Going Overboard” award for his contributions creating beautiful original renderings of the shipwreck sites discovered by MSRA. To date he has created drawings of the Hennepin, Ann Arbor No. 5, the SS Michigan and the Hamilton. He will be working on future discoveries as well. Bob was born and raised in the West Michigan area. His rural heritage was a prime factor in influencing the subject matter of his drawings and paintings. Days at Lake Michigan and tours along the lakeshore produced a love for the beauty of the dunes, harbors, buildings and vessels that make up the history of the region. As a graduate of Kendall School of Design, Mr. Doornbos has worked for some of the most respected advertising and design agencies as graphic designer, art director, and illustrator. He has been responsible for many award winning projects, recognized locally and on the national level. His drawings and paintings have been seen throughout the region at art fairs and in galleries. Bob recently collaborated with MSRA Director Valerie van Heest on the graphic design for the 2008 exhibit “Lost & Found - Shipwrecks of West Michigan” which is on exhibit at the Zeeland Historical Society through 2008. Page 4

The Zeeland Historical Society has opened a new exhibit at the Dekker Huis Historical Museum at 37 East Main Street in Zeeland. The exhibit, entitled “Lost and Found – Shipwrecks of West Michigan”, was designed by MSRA’s Valerie van Heest who will serve also as the guest curator.

MSRA member Neel Zoss, assisted with obtaining images of the Whaleback ships, including the Andaste, for the exhibit. Neel is author of the recently released book published by Arcadia called “McDougall’s Great Lakes Whalebacks.”

Lost and Found Shipwrecks of West Michigan Shipwrecks of West Michigan

On May 22, the Zeeland Historical Society hosted an exhibit opening and over 50 people attended that evening including several MSRA members. Thank you for your support. If you have not yet visited the exhibit, please do so. It is open on Thursdays and Saturdays and is free to the public. Please stay tuned for special programs that will be held in conjunction with the exhibit. *** You can order Neel’s book through the MSRA w e b s i t e : store. A portion of each book sale will go to MSRA. This book is loaded with photographs of these famous whalebacks and wonderful stories about these unusual vessels.

Introductory text for the exhibit

Tim Mar of Advance Scuba in Holland outfitted a mannequin with all the latest dive gear, which draws visitors into the exhibit.

Check out the May/June 2008 issue of Michigan History Magazine for Valerie’s article about the Michigan UnderwaterPreserve system.

MSRA members Chuck and Ann Wingard loaned the museum several artifacts from Chuck’s father, Ernie, who captained the pleasure yacht Verano for many years when owned by the Davis Family of Northport, MI Page 5

MSRA Board of Directors Valerie Olson van Heest Geoffrey Reynolds Craig Rich Ross Richardson Jack van Heest

The Search for the Andaste Begins


David Trotter arrived June 6th to begin the MSRA’s 10th annual expedition to hunt for lost shipwrecks. The search area will be nearly 30 miles off shore between Holland and Saugatuck in very deep water. Jack van Heest spent weeks preparing the boat with an engine overhaul, new gimbal bearings and UJoints. Tim Mar from Holland’s newest dive store, (See below)

lent his boat mechanic skills to complete the engine overall in preparation for the search. Associates William Lafferty, PhD Director of Research Arthur Allen Oceanographer, U.S. Coast Guard Brendon Baillod Historian/Writer Jed Jaworski Maritime Historian Dr. Guy Meadows University of Michigan Kenneth Pott Maritime Archaeologist Dr. David Schwab Oceanographer, GLERL Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates, is a Michigan nonprofit corporation, whose mission is to Preserve Michigan’s submerged maritime history. To that end, the organization’s work includes research, exploration, documentation and education regarding historic shipwrecks within Michigan waters, with an initial emphasis on the area off West Michigan. MSRA works in cooperation with State Agencies. As a Holland-based volunteer-driven organization, MSRA relies on memberships, fundraising events and grants to continue its work.

1134 Goodwood Court Holland, Michigan 49424

Chinese Takeout heads out into the big lake on Saturday morning June 7th on the first day of the search. The webcam mounted at Spyglass Condominiums is an excellent way to check conditions on the lake before leaving home.

Members will receive detailed emails with search updates as the 10-day search progresses.

New Dive Shop in Town Earlier this year, a new dive shop opened in Holland: Advance Scuba. Owner, Captain Tim Marr, has 25 years of experience in the Marine and Dive Industry and currently holds a 100 ton U.S. Coast Guard Master License. Tim is also a Tdi/Sdi/SSI Scuba Instructor, holds First Aid/CPR/AED Certifications, and is also a Master Marine Technician that operates a marine salvage business. Tim has been active with MSRA since opening the shop and was involved in kicking off the search season this year Using his talents in engine repair, he helped complete the boat maintenance, assisted with the side scan set up and adjusted the outboard motor to run at peak performance- all this during three days in a row! He made house-calls and even showed up dressed in his best after a Saturday afternoon wedding! What ever it takes seems to be Tim’s motto. MSRA is grateful for his valuable assistance. Whether you are already a diver or thinking about getting into the sport, stop by Advance Scuba at 11363 East Lakewood Blvd. in Holland, just a few storefronts west from the Walgreens at Lakewood and 112th. Tim has a great supply of gear, he does air fills including nitrox and mixed gas, does full service gear repair, and instruction from the most basic to most advanced class. Book a charter on his 30’ Bayliner or call him to tune up your boat. Check out his website at

MSRA is funded in part by a Grant from the Great Lakes Shipwreck Research Foundation, a Wisconsin 501c3 founded by Kimm Stablefeldt, Brad Friend and Jon Albrecht Page 6

MSRA Newsletter 12  

MSRA Newsletter 12

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