May 2009 Vol 14 Dear MSRA Members, It’s been some time since our last newsletter and there is much to cover. In this issue you will read about our annual holiday get-together, Valerie’s new book, the latest discoveries from our partner Clive Cussler’s NUMA organization and our plans for the upcoming Shipwreck Quest 2009! As we geared up for our ten day exploration of the depths of Lake Michigan with famed wreck hunter David Trotter beginning on May 23, we went back to our list of the “big six” — those shipwrecks that have reached mythic proportions (at least in our minds!) We’ve already located the S.S. Michigan, the Hennepin and the H.C. Akeley. The ever-elusive steamer Chicora remains at large, as does the sidewheeler Alpena (probably on the west side of the lake) and the semi-whaleback Andaste. This year’s target is the Andaste and much research has been done. Putting ourselves in Captain Anderson’s place has not been easy. He left Grand Haven, bound for Chicago at about 9 PM on September 9, 1929. On board were some of the same crewmembers who survived the sinking of the Hennepin two years earlier. Soon a storm arose. The 242’ steel ship was riding low and extremely topheavy. What did Anderson do? Hug the shore? Stay on course? Make a westward run for the leeward side of the lake? We’ve consulted experts, debated around the kitchen table, read the Coast Guard reports and put together a plan. That plan will be implemented this coming week and you, as members, will be kept apprised of our progress. As always, we appreciate your support – through your membership fees, purchase of books, DVDs and clothing, attendance at our annual shipwreck show, and through your generous donations. Remember too, since MSRA is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, your contributions are tax deductible. We hope we have been able to bring you along, at least vicariously, on our adventures both on and under the surface of Lake Michigan. In the past decade, we’ve covered nearly 400 square miles of bottomland with side scan sonar, made hundreds of dives to explore newly discovered ice-water museums, and educated and entertained thousands of children and adults at programs and shows. With your help, we will continue to discover historic shipwrecks and artifacts, solve mysteries, re-write history, and tell the tales of ships gone missing. Thank you.
NUMA Search Ends with 3 New Shipwreck Discoveries From that summer day in 2004 when I received a phone call from one of my favorite authors, Clive Cussler, we knew things were never going to be the same! As many of you know, Mr. Cussler called that day to offer his help in our search for Northwest Airlines Flight 2501, which disappeared over Lake Michigan in a thunderstorm on June 23, 1950 killing all 58 people aboard. Little did we know at the time that five years later we would be calling people like Ralph Wilbanks, Steve The side scan images on this page represent what is believed to Howard and Harry Pecorelli our be two schooners in deep water off South Haven, Michigan. The friends. schooner above is about 65 feet in length and may only have one That phone call led to a mast fallen forward. The other schooner is over 150-feet long and week-long, weather shortened appears to have three fallen masts. MSRA will be working over the next several months to document and identify these vessels. It search in September 2004, folis unwise to even generate a guess at this point because nothing lowed by a four week search efcan be confirmed until the sites are seen first hand. fort in May 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 followed by a five- week effort in April and May 2009. While the remains of the lost airliner have eluded us, the team that Clive sent from his National Underwater Marine Agency (NUMA) has discovered or helped us discover a half dozen significant shipwrecks. This year alone, the NUMA team, with Clive Cussler onboard for a portion of the expedition, uncovered the remains of two schooners and a barge off the Lake Michigan coast near South Haven. MSRA now will spend the next few months diving, researching and documenting these new discoveries and telling their stories next spring at our annual shipwreck show. Ralph Wilbanks and Steve Howard, working for Clive Cussler have added tremendously to our knowledge of Lake Michigan’s treasures. No, not gold and jewels, but our own history; much of which had been lost and forgotten. They became part-time residents of South Haven for the past 6 years. They, along with third team member Harry Pecorelli for three years and others, covered more bottomland with more detail than anyone has ever done in the area. Ralph and the team have attended the Con’t Page 2
The Explorer is a regular publication of MSRA distributed via email. For more information visit www.michiganshipwrecks.org Page 1
The third discovery appears to be a small barge. If that is what it turns out to be, then it is likely it has been scuttled off South Haven.
Con’t from page 1
annual shipwreck show at the Knickerbocker Theatre for the past several years and graciously shared the spotlight with us while meeting their fans, signing autographs and posing for photos. They even made it possible for us to meet and thank Mr. Cussler in person when he attended an informal gettogether with the MSRA board and supporters in 2008. And yet, the remains of the DC-4 airliner remain elusive. Somewhere in the cold, dark depths of Lake Michigan a story waits to be told. A mystery waits to be solved. MSRA will continue the search in the coming years. The NUMA team will move on to solve other mysteries. Their massive coverage area will be a tremendous help in future years as MSRA continues the search for Flight 2501. In this space we want to take the time to publicly thank Clive Cussler and his son Dirk Cussler for investing so much of their time and money into getting us closer to answering the question of what happened on that stormy night in June 1950. We’ll never be able to thank them enough and certainly will always cherish the opportunity to have worked with true professionals like Ralph Wilbanks, Steve Howard, Harry Pecorelli and crewmembers Cameron and Jim. Craig Rich
Search 2009 Begins on May 23rd
Still Missing: The Chicora, lost in 1895 with all hands somewhere between Milwaukee and Benton Harbor. It is believed to be in the waters off South Haven.
Still Missing: The Andaste, lost in 1929 while on route from Grand Haven to Chicago. It is believed to be somewhere in the middle of the lake off Port Sheldon.
It’s hard to believe that MSRA begins its 11th search since beginning what has become an annual operation in 1998 when board members of MSRA served on the board of the Southwest Michigan Underwater Preserve. The only year that we did not conduct a search was in 2002 as we transitioned to Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates and spent that year documenting our first discovery, the H.C. Akeley. In these eleven years our team, working in conjunction with both David Trotter and Clive Cussler’s NUMA team, has discovered a total of thirteen wreck sites, including those just found by NUMA in the last several weeks. Beginning in 1998 and for the three subsequent years, finding the Chicora was the sole focus of our teams’ efforts. Discovering the Akeley instead in 2001, reminded us that unexpected discoveries are quite possible and that many wrecks are in fact far from where historic newspaper accounts suggest they might be. When we discovered the target that turned out to be the Akeley, we found a large number of newspaper accounts that suggested it sank off Holland: Instead, we found it off Saugatuck. The discovery of the SS Michigan and Hennepin were the result of concerted research and a targeted search effort. While the Hennepin was found after three search days, it took us three seasons to find the Michigan. Both these wrecks left behind survivors who made our job easier by leaving fairly detailed accounts of where their ships sank. Flight 2501, the Alpena, the Andaste, the Chicora and the Monsoon went down with all passengers and crew and left few clues as to their whereabouts. That is what makes these especially difficult wrecks to find. We have tried to use scientific drift theory studying the pattern of debris found in the days following the wreck incident to help us backtrack to the wreck site, but nothing has proven that this theory works. In fact, none of the wrecks we have found thus far, had a debris trail to even allow us to study that type of evidence for use in future surveys. Several discoveries occurred serendipitously while looking for other wrecks including the barge off Holland (called Trotters Barge in honor of Dave Trotter), the Ann Arbor No. 5, the Joseph P. Farnan, the “Flat wreck” (yet to be identified), a scuttled Chris Craft, the Hamilton and the three new wrecks found this year. We attribute the discovery of the barge off Port Sheldon to the Potter’s a fishing couple who contacted us after seeing an anomaly on their bottom finder. The barge was named Potters Barge in their honor. There are still a number of mysteries that beckon to be solved. We will turn to the lake this coming weekend to attempt to solve those mysteries. New information recently located suggests the Andaste maybe in very deep water, very far from shore, making the logistics of a search dangerous and near impossibly with the technology we currently employ. Decisions are being made this week as up to the minute research is conducted. So much bottomland has been covered off South Haven by both NUMA and MSRA that we feel we may be closing in on the location of the Chicora. We certainly know where it IS NOT, and so that reduces the size of the area where it might be. Our efforts this year will likely find us off South Haven and Holland in search of either of these or something else that we might not be expecting. Page 2
2009 Mysteries and Histories Event a Huge Success! The 11th annual “Mysteries and Histories Beneath The Inland Seas” event drew a nearly-full house this year, with well over 300 people crowded into the Knickerbocker Theatre. The annual shipwreck show was held a week earlier than usual due to impending interior renovations at the theatre, but the date worked out so well that the MSRA board has decided to make the last Saturday in April the regular date for the program, depending on availability. (April 24, 2010 is the tentative date for next year) One added bonus was NOT dealing with Tulip Time traffic and parking. Noticeable this year was the number of children and teens who attended with their parents – including a pair of twin girls and a set of triplet boys! MSRA is happy to provide an evening of good family entertainment, and also to help our kids appreciate their heritage and local history. There was, perhaps, more than an 80-year age difference between our youngest and our oldest attendee. Now that’s a broad audience! Speakers included David Trotter who gave a follow up to his discovery of the Minnedosa; Cris Kohl & Joan Forsburg who did a program on Great Lakes Whalebacks; MSRA’s own Valerie van Heest who told the sad tale of the raising of the Alvin Clark and the MSRA team who told the tale of the history and discovery of the Joseph P. No photographs exist of the Joseph P. Farnan. Ralph Wilbanks of Clive Cussler’s National Underwater Marine Agency even made an impromptu Farnan, so MSRA commissioned artist appearance to tell the audience about West Michigan’s newest known shipwreck — a schooner discovRobert Doornbos to render the Farnan ered the week before the show. Those of you in attendance were the very first to hear about it! as it looked during the fire that Popular during the evening were the tables of books, DVD documentaries and shipwreck eventually sank it. Contact Valerie van Heest to order a 16 x 20 print of the artwork that were on sale. The Silent auction raised over $1,300 with David Miesch successfully biddrawing for $50.00. The underwater ding on the Badger car ferry trip, the Gantos family winning the shipwreck discovery day and Stan Buell photograph at right, taken by Valerie getting the high bid on Robert Doorbos’s framed painting of the Hennepin. Thanks to all the donors for van Heest, shows some of the providing these wonderful prizes. destruction caused by the fire. One of the benefits of membership in MSRA is being invited to the post-show get-toMSRA spent the fall and winter of 2008/2009 researching and gether which was documenting the latest shipwreck discoveries that were made held this year at 8th in 2008 — two targets unearthed by the NUMA team last spring Street Grille. Several within a quarter mile of each other. of our members The first remains a mystery. We call it “The Flat Wreck” showed up and we because it offers very little relief off the bottom of the lake. Had able to spend time it not been for the sophisticated equipment and experience of chatting with the Ralph Wilbanks and the NUMA team, this one would have “celebrety” presentevaded discovery. While the wreck does not yet have a name, ers. It was a great it has been documented through still photos and video. Could evening! We appreit be just a portion of another ship? Is there more under the ciate the attendance sandy bottom of the lake that we can’t see? Only time will tell and participation by as we continue the research. all of our members, The second target has been identified as the Steamer supporters, friends Joseph P. Farnan. The Farnan was built in Cleveland in 1887 and the public. This and launched that September. It was 151 feet long, with a 33annual event provides a large portion of the funds necessary for MSRA to foot beam and a nine-foot depth. On July 21, 1889 after delivcontinue our mission of research, exploration, discovery and documentaering cargo of coal to St. Joseph, Captain Loren G. Vosburgh tion of shipwrecks. And the show itself helps fulfill our mission of bringing was taking the Farnan north to Escanaba to pick up cargo. informative and entertaining programs to the public. See you next year! The Farnan would not make it very far. When off South Haven, fire broke out in the engine room. The flames soon enveloped the stern of the vessel. Knowing their MSRA Receives Grant ship was doomed, the crew hastily began tearing up the ship MSRA was awarded a grant from to construct two large rafts. the Great Lakes Shipwreck The crew of the South Haven U.S. Life Saving Service Research Foundation in station saw the fire and hastened to the rescue, pulling the captain, his wife and two other crew members to safety as the Wisconsin at the event. One of burning ship slipped beneath the waves. Despite some burns the three founding members, Kimm and other injuries, all survived. Stablefeldt presented a check for Fast forward 120 years and West Michigan now has another a $500.00 grant to MSRA at the identified shipwreck to attract scuba divers from across the annual film festival. MSRA extends Midwest. And one more piece of our local history has been a heartfelt thanks to the Board of GLSRF for their continued support of discovered and brought to life.
the goals of MSRA.
Mummified Remains Found on Glacier in Alaska
Undated photo provided by Alaska State Troopers shows a photo of Francis Joseph Van Zandt on his merchant marine application. MSRA member Chriss Lyon, was instrumental in the discovery of Van Zandt’s family.
Kevin McGregor’s rarely shown photograph of the hand and arm as he and partner Marc Millican found it on the mountain. In reprinting it here, we think of Frank Van Zandt, and his tragic loss on that mountain top. We only hope that when the MSRA/NUMA team is finally able to discover and document Flight 2501, the outcome will be as significant as it was for the families of Flight 4422’s lost passengers and crew.
If you attended MSRA’s annual event in 2007, you will recall Kevin McGregor, the pilot who located the remains of a Northwest DC-4, Flight 4422 in a glacier in Alaska. Since that time, he and a team of forensic genealogists and DNA specialists have made an extraordinary discovery. Read on from a late 2008 Fox news story. ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Nine years of sleuthing, advanced DNA science and cutting-edge forensic techniques have finally put a name to a mummified hand and arm found in an Alaska glacier. The remains belong to Francis Joseph Van Zandt, a 36year-old merchant marine from Roanoke, Va., who was on a plane rumored to contain a cargo of gold when it smashed into the side of a mountain 60 years ago. Thirty people died in the crash. “This is the oldest identification of fingerprints by post-mortem remains,” said latent fingerprint expert Mike Grimm Sr., during a teleconference Friday, during which the two pilots who found the remains, genetic scientists and genealogists talked about the discovery. Twenty-four merchant marines and six crewmen were flying from China to New York City on March 12, 1948, when the DC-4 slammed into Mount Sanford, perhaps because the pilots were blinded by an unusually intense aurora borealis that night. The wreckage disappeared into the glacier within a few days. The DC-4 was thought to be carrying gold because the merchant marines had just delivered an oil tanker to Shanghai. Though no gold was found, the two commercial airline pilots who discovered the wreckage found themselves on a scientific adventure filled with high-tech sleuthing. The pilots, Kevin McGregor and Marc Millican, discovered the mummified remains in 1999 while recovering artifacts to identify the wreckage they had found two years earlier. An Alaska State Trooper flew to the glacier to take possession of the remains, which were flown to Anchorage where the state medical examiner tried to obtain fingerprints. The remains then were embalmed. The Alaska Department of Public Safety attempted to match the fingerprints to numerous databases but came up empty because the details of the fingerprints were unclear. A few pieces of the arm were sent to a commercial DNA laboratory. However, no data could be obtained because the remains, having been in a frozen and dehydrated state for decades, were too degraded. In 2002, the arm and hand were sent to a DNA expert in Canada. Dr. Ryan Parr at Genesis Genomics in Thunder Bay was able to extract some DNA. However, it was still necessary to locate family members related to the victim for a mitochondrial DNA match. Mitochondrial DNA is DNA passed down by females. In 2006, Dr. Odile Loreille at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Rockville, Md., was asked to help. Her expertise is extracting DNA from the embalmed remains of unidentified soldiers from the Korean War. Loreille developed new methods that allowed her to read the hand and arm’s mitochondrial DNA. “I managed to get a mitochondrial sequence,” she said. “Now I just needed some relatives to compare.” That’s when forensic genealogist Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick got involved in the frustrating search for living relatives of the victims. She and her assistants found family members of 16 of the victims, but no DNA matches. In the meantime, Grimm Sr., and his son, Mike Grimm Jr., began work with Edward Robinson, a professor of forensic science at George Washington University. Robinson made several attempts to rehydrate the fingers to raise the fingerprint swirls, but by this time only the layer of skin below the outer epidermal layer remained. Robinson tried again with a newly-developed rehydrating solution. The fingers were soaked in the fluid and examined hourly. Special imaging techniques then were used to produce a complete set of fully legible fingerprints. On Sept. 6, 2007, the prints were compared with some kept at the National Marine Center in Arlington, Va., and a match was found. In the meantime, Loreille confirmed the finding with nuclear DNA from a nephew of Van Zandt’s. A genealogist also located a relative whose mitochondrial DNA matched the remains.
MSRA Christmas Party 2008
Chuck Cooper and Craig Rich yuck it up.
Blustery conditions, mild uncertainty but warmhearted determination might describe a typical day for MSRA out on Lake Michigan but it can also describe the 2008 Christmas Party held at the van Heest home. December 6, 2008 certainly felt more like February but for those who traversed the snow-filled roads and frigid temperatures were treated to a cozy, oratory-pleasing home brimming with friends and good conversations….about shipwrecks because what else is there? Hosts Valerie and Jack van Heest opened up their kitchen to an assortment of wonderful dishes and by the time everyone arrived, there was more than enough to “dive” into, as Todd White mentioned. And spills were promptly taken care of by our favorite four-legged MSRA member, Jacque, the dachshund who attends events courtesy of his owners, Bob and Jan Underhill. Throughout the evening we were treated to stories of Neel Zoss and Valerie’s experience aboard the Maumee this summer, Chuck and Shirley Cooper’s dream vacation, Todd White, Jeff Vos, and Bob Underhill’s dives on various wrecks and even a few new members who shared their interests with the group. One was 17-year old Alex Parker who attended along with his mom. Alex has taken a keen interest in local shipwrecks and written about many that MSRA has been searching for. As the song goes, the weather was certainly frightful but the party was definitely delightful. It may have been cold on the outside but it was very warm with thoughts and anticipation of a successful 2009 season. —Chriss Lyon
Chriss Lyon, who served as the event photographer, made it into one photo with Valerie
Todd White and Valerie van Heest (above) ponder the location of the Andaste, while Jack van Heest and Craig Rich (below) ponder the location of the Coronas.
All parties seem to take place in the kitchen! From left to right, Bob and Jan Underhill, Jeff Vos, Kirk, and Todd White enjoy the good food and company.
MSRA Board of Directors Valerie Olson van Heest Geoffrey Reynolds Craig Rich Ross Richardson Jack van Heest
Associates William Lafferty, PhD Director of Research Arthur Allen Oceanographer, U.S.C.G. 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 501(c) 3 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.
New Book Just Released
By Jeff Barr, April 30, 2009 Kalamazoo Gazettee
HOLLAND — Today’s topic is deep. Very deep.But don’t fret. We’re not tackling world peace or health care. The deep subject of which we speak is the floor of Lake Michigan and some of the great treasures to be found in the largest of the Great Lakes. Shipwreck information — more specifically a book co-written by a Southwest Michigan author about the discovery of the wreckage of the Hennepin — is the deep subject of the day. Valerie van Heest, who has been diving the Great Lakes for more than 30 years, and William Lafferty, who has dedicated much of his life to maritime history, have teamed to write, “Buckets and Belts, Evolution of the Great Lakes Self-Unloader.” The 320-page book is filled with photos and stories about the history of the Hennepin, what was discovered, what was found, and the condition of the self-loader that sank on Aug. 18, 1927. “Everyone can go a museum,” said van Heest, who has lived in Holland for the past 15 years. “But not everyone can go to an underwater museum. I’m lucky to be able to dive and discover pieces of our past. “Buckets and Belts,” a book by local author Valerie van Heest, begins with the discovery of the Hennepin. “The purpose of the book is to relate the underwater history to those who can’t see it for themselves.” I don’t want to give away the secrets of Buckets and Belts, but I’ll forward just a few nuggets about the Hennepin to whet your appetite. In the 1920s, the Hennepin was converted into the first self-unloading cargo ship in the Great Lakes, but she met her end off the Grand Haven shore more than 80 years ago. The 208-foot ship ran into a squall after delivering a load of gravel in Chicago, and she sprang a leak that would lead to her undoing. Captain Ole Hanson and his 13-member crew worked for four hours to save her, but when the cause became hopeless, the men abandoned and survived. The Hennepin, valued at $100,000 at the time, was lost. The authors of “Buckets and Belts” have a wealth of expertise on which to call. Van Heest is director of the non-profit Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates, which dedicates itself to diving into Lake Michigan history. She also is an inductee in the Women Divers Hall of Fame. “I find it absolutely fascinating, not necessarily the sport of diving, but the act of researching the history of the shipwrecks we find,” she said. “Just as enjoyable for me, maybe even more so, is the detective work necessary to try to locate the exact location of the ships we’re looking for.” Lafferty is an associate professor at Wright State University and winner of the 2007 Association for Great Lakes Maritime History’s Henry Barkhausen Award for his research on Great Lakes maritime history. Despite their expertise and devotion to researching shipwrecks, van Heest and Lafferty take no ownership of the vessels they find. “The Great Lakes belong to everyone, and so does all the history,” she said. “We simply provide the information. “When a shipwreck is discovered, the Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates makes public the latitude and longitude of the wreck, just in case there are other inquisitive divers.“We welcome others to take a look, but not to touch,” she said. It is important, says van Heest, that the once-deep secrets remain in the deep.
Order Your Copy Now Buckets and Belts was published through a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council and a supplemental grant from the Association for Great Lakes Maritime History with MSRA as the recipients of 500 copies for distribution. We have donated nearly 50 copies to historical societies and libraries, and 100% of the proceeds of the balance go towards furthering the work of MSRA. Please consider ordering your copy from the MSRA website at www.michiganshipwrecks.org 1134 Goodwood Court Holland, Michigan 49424 www.michiganshipwrecks.org
MSRA is funded in part by an annual grant from the Great Lakes Shipwreck Research Foundation, a Wisconsin 501c3 founded by Kimm Stablefeldt, Brad Friend and Jon Albrecht Page 6