For the 9th Annual History Weekend at Grand Hotel we are excited to welcome Bruce Lynn for an exciting presentation about the Great Lakes Shipwreck program. Bruce is the Executive Director of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum located at Whitefish Point in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula.
Here is a little background on Bruce Lynn and what to look forward to at his presentation this year:
As a boy, Bruce Lynn spent numerous summers at his family’s cabin on Whitefish Bay just south of the Whitefish Point Lighthouse, in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula. Many an afternoon was spent exploring the beach and nosing around the old, boarded-up light-station. When doing so, it was hard not to notice plumes of black smoke on the horizon…which meant more ship traffic in and out of Whitefish Bay and Lake Superior. Visits to the navigational locks at “The Soo” (Sault Sainte Marie, MI) allowed for amazingly close views of the giant ships. These summer visits to the Lake Superior country left an indelible impression and inspired an ever increasing interest in Great Lakes shipping, lighthouses, the old U.S. Life-Saving Service and Great Lakes Maritime history in general.
From 1989 – 2017…….
Fast forward to 1989 and Bruce is employed by the Mackinac State Historic Parks, where his museum career began as an historical interpreter at Fort Mackinac. After securing a history degree at The Ohio State University, Lynn went on to obtain his Master’s Degree in Heritage Interpretation, in Eastern Michigan University’s Historic Preservation program. In 1996, the opportunity to develop the first interpretive manual for the (then) recently restored 1861 Whitefish Point Lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters presented itself. As a part of the historical campus of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, the Keeper’s Quarters was (and is) the oldest structure at the Whitefish Point light-station, which is the oldest operating light on Lake Superior. Shortly after, Bruce returned to Mackinac and went on to work full-time for the Mackinac State Historic Parks for the next ten years. He was subsequently hired by the Ohio Historical Society in the creation of an economic impact survey of historical sites for the Ohio State Legislature. Soon-after, a forthcoming offer to work for the Sloan Museum in Flint, MI, saw Lynn returning to the museum world as a programming curator. By 2011, Bruce was contacted by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society to return to Whitefish Point to serve as Operations Manager, and now he is the Executive Director of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.
What is the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum?
The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is located at the eastern tip of what has come to be known as Lake Superior’s “Shipwreck Coast.” This region has played witness to hundreds of shipwrecks, the most dramatic (and mysterious) being the November 1975 loss of the 729’ ore carrier, Edmund Fitzgerald. A combination of foul weather, congested shipping lanes, lingering fogs and a lack of natural harbors contributed to the dramatic number of area shipwrecks. In 1978, a team of educators, scuba divers and historians worked together to create the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (501 [c]-3), and soon-after opened a small museum in an early 1920’s U.S. Navy Radio Station living quarters located at Whitefish Point. The public reaction was tremendous and by 1986, a purpose built museum structure was in place…housing related artifacts and exhibits telling the stories of over a dozen area shipwrecks. Ten years later, the Whitefish Point Lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters was restored and opened for tours, and in more recent years the remaining structures of the United States Coast Guard Rescue Station (1923-51) have been, one by one, restored and opened to the public. Lynn has been project director of the 1923 Motor Lifeboat House relocation and restoration at WFP, as well as leading the effort to acquire and restore a 1930’s era USCG Motor Lifeboat (CG36381) for the museum. During Bruce’s tenure as the Shipwreck Museum’s Executive Director, he has overseen the creation of 3 new museum and traveling exhibits, the discovery of an 1866 Barquentine (Nelson) which sank in 1899 off Grand Marais, two historic structure restorations and co-authored/published a 278 page illustrated history of the Edmund Fitzgerald, commemorating the 40th anniversary of her sinking.
While the majority of the shipwrecks interpreted at the Shipwreck Museum foundered in the area of Southeast Lake Superior, shipwrecks are found in every corner of the Great Lakes. Newer shipwreck exhibits at the museum testify to this fact and focus on the 1958 loss of the Carl D. Bradley in Lake Michigan, and the 1966 foundering of the Daniel J. Morrell in Lake Huron. While the statistics vary, common references indicate that over 6,000 ships have gone down on the inland seas. The Straits of Mackinac is no exception, with its turbulent weather, dangerous shoals, seasonal ice flows and historically heavy ship traffic. As the “Crossroads of the Great Lakes”, more traffic often meant more accidents and wrecks. The chain of lighthouses, fog signals and early lightships spoke to the dangers inherent to navigation in the Straits. In later years, a United States Life-Saving Service Station was constructed on Bois Blanc Island, and later, a USCG Rescue Station was built on Mackinac Island. That station building still stands, and is now the Mackinac Island State Park Visitor’s Center.
What will Bruce present at this year’s History Weekend?
From the potential of LaSalle’s Le Griffon being lost in the Straits, to the 1965 sinking of the 604’ Cedarville after a collision with a Norwegian vessel…nearly 100 ships have come to grief in the Straits of Mackinac. Lynn’s presentation will focus on the reasons for such heavy ship traffic through the Straits, and the corresponding reasons for the high frequency of wrecks. His program will then highlight a number of Straits of Mackinac shipwrecks, emphasizing the dramatic stories surrounding each ship’s loss. Such wrecks as the Eber Ward (1909), the Minneapolis (1894) and the Cedarville (1965) will be discussed, as will the more recent sinking in Lake Superior of the 729’ ore carrier, Edmund Fitzgerald.
We hope you will join Bruce Lynn for this fascinating look into the depths of the Straits of Mackinac!