Students Dive, Document Sheboygan Shipwreck



A team of budding nautical archaeologists from East Carolina University dove below the waves of Lake Michigan last week to discover what treasures lay hidden on the sandy bottom.

Graduate students from the Maritime Studies Program at the school spent three weeks in Sheboygan learning underwater survey techniques to create a scale drawing of the Goodrich Steamer Atlanta, a shipwreck located offshore approximately 14 miles south of Sheboygan.

A 200 foot passenger and freight vessel built in 1891, traveled the Great Lakes until March of 1906, when it caught fire and sank 14 miles south of Sheboygan.  The ship’s passengers were rescued and the Atlanta’s charred remains were towed within 900 feet of the beach near Cedar Grove, where it remains submerged under 10 to 15 feet of water today.

The students’ first week in Sheboygan was plagued by poor weather, fog and a broken down boat, but by the second and third week the biggest obstacle they faced was the cold water. Students practiced diving in pools and lakes in North Carolina before coming to Sheboygan, but nothing could prepare them for the 43 degree water.


Students spent about an hour at a time in the water documenting the Atlanta, spending more than 100 hours total surveying the wreck.  Armed with dry suits, diving equipment and drawing utensils, students draw the entire wreckage site in 10 foot by 10 foot segments while underwater and then combined the segments into one large scale drawing.

The students also take photographs and video of the wreckage.  There were 13 involved in the project, including eight students, a dive safety instructor, three archaeologists from the Wisconsin Historical Society, and Professor Rodgers.

The information gathered during the three-week dive expedition will be turned into a report by a student, who will use it as the basis for a thesis project.

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Source: Sheboygan Press


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