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Michigan Drive and Dive: The Wrecks of Munising

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Michigan Drive and Dive: The Wrecks of Munising

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Thousands of visitors each year travel miles of Lake Superior shoreline to view colorful weathered sandstone that makes up one of Mother Nature’s greatest beauties. But while the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of America’s natural wonders, it’s what lies below these magnificent cliffs that excites scuba divers. One of Michigan’s 14 underwater-protected areas, the Alger Underwater Preserve stretches 113 square miles along the shoreline. Conserved within the frigid waters are dozens of shipwrecks offering divers of various skill levels the opportunity to peek into our nation’s maritime past.

The Bermuda

Among the most popular Great Lakes shipwrecks is the 130-foot schooner Bermuda. Sheltered within Murray Bay, just of the shores of the city of Munising, this intact vessel rests upright in about 30 feet of water. Because of its location in the bay, the Bermuda is often accessible to divers even when Michigan’s unpredictable weather cancels dive opportunities farther out into the lake. There is plenty to see on this wreck — because the shallow depths offer a relatively bright experience, most divers make sure they have time to explore. Depending on lake levels, the deck of this beauty rests just about a dozen feet below surface. Compared with some of Munising’s deeper offerings, the Bermuda radiates welcome warmth, which gives me even more time to cruise along its rails. Most of my air was spent at the bow, where a chain dropped of into Superior silt. The wreck also offers hatches, the bow stem, stern rail and rudder; divers have reported seeing paint on the hull despite decades underwater.

The Smith Moore

Another Munising favorite is the Smith Moore. Deeper, darker and colder than the Bermuda, the Smith Moore is just as beautiful although a bit more taxing to tour. A 226-foot wooden-hulled steamer, the Smith Moore sank in an 1889 collision outside the bay.

Dropping just about 90 feet to the stern on a summertime dive here, I felt as though I were swimming through a green fog when I spotted the ship lying upright. I eased forward along the rail to the boiler house, where I could see the steamer’s giant engine. I took my time traveling toward the bow and dropped down into a few cargo holds, which revealed how much sand now surrounds the ship on the outside. Capt. Peter Lindquist of Shipwreck Tours, our charter, explained that preserve managers keep the Smith Moore from being buried by dredging the sand with pumps.

Because of the depth and cold — these dives are most comfortable in a drysuit — I spent only a half-hour on this shipwreck but was still able to see much of the machinery that went down with the vessel. Capstans, pinrails and pumps are among the items still visible, although experts say many items — including the anchor — were removed years ago. (Today Michigan law protects shipwrecks from those looking for souvenirs.)

The Steven M. Selvick dive

A less historic but just as impressive dive is the Steven M. Selvick, afectionately called the Tugboat. Members of the preserve intentionally sank this 71-foot steam-driven tugboat as a dive site. With the help of numerous volunteers and hours of prep work, the Selvick — which was used during construction of the Mackinac Bridge — was sent about 60 feet to the bottom in 1996. Wave action over the years has pushed the Selvick so that it now rests nearly completely on its port side. I was able to peek in the back holding areas and up through the doorways and windows in the pilothouse, and noticed a large coil of rope still at the bow. Because of its relatively small size, the Selvick can get crowded quickly, but it’s definitely a dive worth doing.

The Kiowa

No list of favorite Alger Preserve wrecks would be complete without the Kiowa. Its location several miles east of Munising means the boat ride out and back offers spectacular views of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. And the dive on this 261-foot, ocean-going freighter offers a chance to explore its many broken pieces.

Kiowa foundered in a 1929 storm; today it rests in about 30 feet of water. Years of waves and ice have crushed much of the ship, but there are still interesting artifacts to discover. Visibility during my visit was limited, but my buddy did spot the corked cannon that we were told to look for. This object — which still had cork in the barrel — was used to shoot rope from ship to shore.

Getting to Munising — located on the far side of the mostly rural Upper Peninsula — requires quite a drive for most visitors. But the certainty of excellent diving makes the trip worth it.

Munising Itinerary

Day 1: If weather permits choose a dive site
along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Back on
land, head
 to Foggy’s Steakhouse & Lounge, where diners can grill their own steaks.

Day 2: If you have an afternoon charter, get up early and take a tour of the area’s many lighthouses. Integral to Michigan’s maritime history, lighthouses offer beautiful photographic opportunities. And because you’re in
the Upper Peninsula, stop for a pasty — a meat pie usually eaten by hand — at one of the city’s diners.

Day 3: If you haven’t had enough shipwrecks, Glass bottom shipwreck tours (shipwrecktours .com) are a unique Great Lakes experience. On your drive home, take a detour to see Munising Falls — the Upper Peninsula’s area falls are majestic.

Need to Know



When to Go:

The diving season typically runs from mid-May to early October. Keep an eye on the weather: Heavy winds may limit the shipwrecks that can be visited, or even cause the charter to be canceled.

Dive Conditions:

Lake Superior is the coldest of the five Great Lakes, so drysuits are highly recommended.

Surface temperatures in the summer may hit the low 60s, however prepare for bottom temperatures in the 40-degree range on the deeper wrecks. The visibility at Alger Underwater Preserve can range from 25 to 50-plus feet, depending on weather and the time of year.

Operator:

Shipwreck Tours (shipwrecktours.com/diving- charters) provides scuba-diving opportunities, as well as glass-bottom- boat tours for those not interested in getting wet. Air fills are available, but if you want to dive nitrox, you must bring your own.

Deck of the Bermuda

Deck of the Bermuda, just 12 feet below the surface.

Andy Morrison

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Thousands of visitors each year travel miles of Lake Superior shoreline to view colorful weathered sandstone that makes up one of Mother Nature’s greatest beauties. But while the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of America’s natural wonders, it’s what lies below these magnificent cliffs that excites scuba divers. One of Michigan’s 14 underwater-protected areas, the Alger Underwater Preserve stretches 113 square miles along the shoreline. Conserved within the frigid waters are dozens of shipwrecks offering divers of various skill levels the opportunity to peek into our nation’s maritime past.

A diver drops into the Alger Underwater Preserve.

A diver drops into the Alger Underwater Preserve.

Andy Morrison

The Steven M. Selvick

A less historic but just as impressive dive is the Steven M. Selvick, affectionately called the Tugboat. Members of the preserve intentionally sank this 71-foot steam-driven tugboat as a dive site. With the help of numerous volunteers and hours of prep work, the Selvick — which was used during construction of the Mackinac Bridge — was sent about 60 feet to the bottom in 1996. Wave action over the years has pushed the Selvick so that it now rests nearly completely on its port side. I was able to peek in the back holding areas and up through the doorways and windows in the pilothouse, and noticed a large coil of rope still at the bow. Because of its relatively small size, the Selvick can get crowded quickly, but it’s definitely a dive worth doing.

Divers explore the Smith Moore.

Divers on the Smith Moore.

Andy Morrison

The Bermuda

Among the most popular Great Lakes shipwrecks is the 130-foot schooner Bermuda. Sheltered within Murray Bay, just off the shores of the city of Munising, this intact vessel rests upright in about 30 feet of water. Because of its location in the bay, the Bermuda is often accessible to divers even when Michigan’s unpredictable weather cancels dive opportunities farther out into the lake. There is plenty to see on this wreck — because the shallow depths offer a relatively bright experience, most divers make sure they have time to explore. Depending on lake levels, the deck of this beauty rests just about a dozen feet below surface. Compared with some of Munising’s deeper offerings, the Bermuda radiates welcome warmth, which gives me even more time to cruise along its rails. Most of my air was spent at the bow, where a chain dropped off into Superior silt. The wreck also offers hatches, the bow stem, stern rail and rudder; divers have reported seeing paint on the hull despite decades underwater.

Selvick

Selvick was placed for divers in 1996; it's also known as the Tugboat.

Andy Morrison

The Smith Moore

Another Munising favorite is the Smith Moore. Deeper, darker and colder than the Bermuda, the Smith Moore is just as beautiful although a bit more taxing to tour. A 226-foot wooden-hulled steamer, the Smith Moore sank in an 1889 collision outside the bay.

Miner's Castle at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Miner's Castle in Michigan.

Andy Morrison

Dropping just about 90 feet to the stern on a summertime dive here, I felt as though I were swimming through a green fog when I spotted the ship lying upright. I eased forward along the rail to the boiler house, where I could see the steamer’s giant engine. I took my time traveling toward the bow and dropped down into a few cargo holds, which revealed how much sand now surrounds the ship on the outside. Capt. Peter Lindquist of Shipwreck Tours, our charter, explained that preserve managers keep the Smith Moore from being buried by dredging the sand with pumps.

Because of the depth and cold — these dives are most comfortable in a drysuit — I spent only a half-hour on this shipwreck but was still able to see much of the machinery that went down with the vessel. Capstans, pinrails and pumps are among the items still visible, although experts say many items — including the anchor — were removed years ago. (Today Michigan law protects shipwrecks from those looking for souvenirs.)

Bow of the Bermuda

A diver approaches the bow of the Bermuda, a wooden schooner that sank off Grand Island on Oct. 15, 1870.

Andy Morrison

The Kiowa

No list of favorite Alger Preserve wrecks would be complete without the Kiowa. Its location several miles east of Munising means the boat ride out and back offers spectacular views of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. And the dive on this 261-foot, ocean-going freighter offers a chance to explore its many broken pieces.

Kiowa foundered in a 1929 storm; today it rests in about 30 feet of water. Years of waves and ice have crushed much of the ship, but there are still interesting artifacts to discover. Visibility during my visit was limited, but my buddy did spot the corked cannon that we were told to look for. This object — which still had cork in the barrel — was used to shoot rope from ship to shore.


WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT THE WRECKS OF LAKE SUPERIOR? READ ERIN ALTEMUS’S STORY EXPLORING SUPERIOR’S SUNKEN SHIPS IN NORTHERN WILDS


Engine of Smith Moore

Engine of Smith Moore

Andy Morrison

The 226-foot wooden-hulled Smith Moore sank in an 1889 collision outside the bay. Its engine is shown here.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

The beautiful, rugged shoreline of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Andy Morrison

Munising Itinerary

Getting to Munising — located on the far side of the mostly rural Upper Peninsula — requires quite a drive for most visitors. But the certainty of excellent diving makes the trip worth it.

Meat Pie

When in the Upper Peninsula, stop for a pasty — a meat pie usually eaten by hand — at one of the city’s diners.

Andy Morrison

Day 1: If weather permits choose a dive site
 along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Back on
land, head
 to Foggy’s Steakhouse & Lounge, where diners can grill their own steaks.

Day 2: If you have an afternoon charter, get up early and take a tour of the area’s many lighthouses. Integral to Michigan’s maritime history, lighthouses offer beautiful photographic opportunities. And because you’re in 
the Upper Peninsula, stop for a pasty at one of the city’s diners.

Glass bottom shipwreck tours

Glass-bottom shipwreck tours (shipwrecktours .com) are a unique Great Lakes experience.

Andy Morrison

Day 3: If you haven’t had enough shipwrecks, glass-bottom shipwreck tours (shipwrecktours .com) are a unique Great Lakes experience. On your drive home, take a detour to see Munising Falls — the Upper Peninsula’s area falls are majestic.

Need to Know

an overview map

An overview of Pictured Rocks National Seashore.

Scuba Diving Editors

When to Go

The diving season typically runs from mid-May to early October. Keep an eye on the weather: Heavy winds may limit the shipwrecks that can be visited, or even cause the charter to be canceled.

Dive Conditions

Lake Superior is the coldest of the five Great Lakes, so drysuits are highly recommended.

Surface temperatures in the summer may hit the low 60s; however, prepare for bottom temperatures in the 40-degree range on the deeper wrecks. The visibility at Alger Underwater Preserve can range from 25 to 50-plus feet, depending on weather and the time of year.

Operator

Shipwreck Tours (shipwrecktours.com/diving- charters) provides scuba-diving opportunities, as well as glass-bottom- boat tours for those not interested in getting wet. Air fills are available, but if you want to dive nitrox, you must bring your own.