Ghosts of the Great Lake

A mu­seum in Up­per Michi­gan pays trib­ute to the lives lost on the wa­ters of Lake Su­pe­rior.


ome call it the Ship­wreck Coast. Oth­ers call it the Grave­yard of the Great Lakes. The wa­ters along this 80-mile stretch of Michi­gan coast­line be­tween Grand Is­land and White­fish Point have sunk hun­dreds of ships.

Ed­mund Fitzger­ald, Cyprus and Vi­enna are just a few of the ves­sels lost be­neath the waves, their names for­ever etched in mar­itime lore. Their wreck­ages lie in vary­ing depths of Lake Su­pe­rior, the largest of the Great Lakes.

SEvery sum­mer, thou­sands of vis­i­tors come here to ex­plore the wrecks and the breath­tak­ing bluffs, in­clud­ing Pic­tured Rocks Na­tional Lakeshore. Peo­ple are at­tracted to the “hu­man drama, the bat­tle of man ver­sus na­ture, and our age-old ro­mance with the sea,” says Bruce Lynn, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Great Lakes Ship­wreck Mu­seum in Par­adise.

The mu­seum is at the cen­ter of all this ac­tiv­ity. It’s a def­i­nite first stop for any vis­i­tor in­ter­ested in the mar­itime his­tory of Lake Su­pe­rior.

In the 19th cen­tury, Mu­nis­ing, near Grand Is­land, was one of the busiest ports on Lake Su­pe­rior and one of the few har­bors where ships car­ry­ing pas­sen­gers, iron ore, tim­ber and other cargo could seek sanc­tu­ary from the lake’s stormy sea­sonal fury.

“This part of Lake Su­pe­rior is par­tic­u­larly treacherous thanks to a unique com­bi­na­tion of ge­og­ra­phy and storm pat­terns,” Bruce says. “Storms build up over Canada and the Great Plains. Their strong winds blow un­in­ter­rupted over

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