Archives for November 2014

National Museum of the Great Lakes

Visitors to the $12.1 million National Museum of the Great Lakes will find a family friendly atmosphere. There have been 8,000 shipwrecks on the Great Lakes.

The shipwrecks are compelling tales. They amount to one shipwreck every 11 days for the last 250 years.

There are more shipwrecks per surface square mile on the Great Lakes than anywhere else in the world.

The greatest number occurred in Lake Michigan and Lake Erie.

For example, the 335-foot steel Marquette sailed from Conneaut, Ohio, on Dec. 8, 1909, to cross Lake Erie to Port Stanley, Ontario.

It carried 30 railroad cars. It disappeared. It has never been found and no one knows why it sank, although some wreckage was located.

You can look through goggles to view footage that divers took of the wreckage of the Cedarville that sank in the Straits of Mackinac in 1965, after it collided with another ship.

The museum is filled with more than 250 historical artifacts from Great Lakes vessels and other sources, plus hundreds of photographs.

The exhibits cover 9,000 square feet of space in five galleries. It also features documentary videos and interactive displays.

The museum is an interesting, fresh, bright, colorful and kid-friendly place designed to attract and entertain families with compelling stories.

It is a great day-trip destination: You can easily tour the museum and the old ore boat in two to three hours.

There are exhibits on Great Lakes lighthouses (there are 326 of them), luxurious passenger ships that once sailed the lakes, the Underground Railroad, rum runners on the lakes, the 1913 White Hurricane that sank 12 boats and killed 240, and maritime technology and equipment.

You can hoist a heavy backpack like early European fur traders, learn how to pump a ship’s bilge to keep water out of leaky vessels and work together to fire the engine of a simulated coal-powered freighter.

Only 10 percent of the museum’s historical items are actually on display, officials said.

A 22-ton ship’s propeller from the lake freighter John Sherwin sits outside the museum in a small riverbank park.

But the Col. James M. Schoonmaker is easily the museum’s biggest attraction and its biggest artifact.

The retired freighter is moored on the east bank of the Maumee River next to the museum.

It was launched in 1911 and was hailed as the “Queen of the Lakes” as well as the largest bulk freighter on the Great Lakes and in the world at the time.

It carried iron ore from Lake Superior to the steel mills of Ohio and Pennsylvania, plus coal and rye.

It was mothballed about 1981. In 1986, the freighter was sold to the city of Toledo and restored at a cost of $1 million.

The Schoonmaker is open for self-guided tours: from the engine room to the cargo holds, from the owner’s cabin to the pilot house, from the crew’s cabins to the galley and dining rooms.

The museum, once based in Vermilion, is housed in the Toledo Maritime Center on the east bank of the Maumee River in Toledo Ohio.