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Father-Daughter Fishing Trip on Lake Michigan Results in Major Historical Discovery

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A man and his daughter were fishing on Lake Michigan over the summer when they discovered a shipwreck believed to be more than 150 years old.

Tim Wollak and his 6-year-old daughter, Henley, were fishing on Lake Michigan over the summer when their sonar picked up something strange, WLUK-TV reported.

Wollak posted the sonar images on Facebook, catching the attention of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

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“We went back to our database to see if there was anything reported in the area, and we didn’t have anything,” said Tamara Thomsen, a maritime archaeologist for the Wisconsin Historical Society.

“However, in the database we have information on historic losses, and this fits the loss location of the George L. Newman” she continued.

The society announced in a Facebook post on Dec. 11 that an underwater remote vehicle surveyed the site, confirming that the object was indeed a three-masted sailing ship.

The George L. Newman was a 122-foot long ship that carried lumber from Little Suamico. The ship ended up crashing the night of Oct. 8, 1871 due to thick black smoke from the Peshtigo Fire, the most devastating fire in U.S. history that took the lives of over 1,200 people, according to The Weather Channel.

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“According to survivor accounts, railroad workers clearing land for tracks started a brush fire on Oct. 8, 1871, that grew into an inferno that scorched between 1.2 million and 1.5 million acres. The fire skipped east over the waters of Green Bay and set fire to parts of Door and Kewaunee counties,” CBS News reported.

Peshtigo and 16 surrounded towns were set ablaze, with Peshtigo being consumed by the flames in just one hour.

“On the evening of October 8, 1871, the barkentine was sailing through the thick smoke from the Great Peshtigo Fire — the deadliest fire in U.S. history — with a cargo of lumber from Little Suamico when it grounded on the southeast point of Green Island,” the society wrote in the post.

“The smoke was so dense that the Green Island lighthouse keeper kept the light on during the day. Keeper Samuel Drew rescued the crew, who remained at the lighthouse for a week while they salvaged what they could from the wrecked vessel,” the post continued.

The ship was abandoned, eventually becoming covered with sand at the bottom of the bay and forgotten until Tim Wollak and his daughter stumbled upon it.

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“It was actually built in 1855, so it’s a pretty significant shipwreck, pretty old for Wisconsin shipwrecks anyways,” Thomsen said, according to WLUK. “To have it tied to the Peshtigo Fire, it makes it even more special.”

“I don’t know how we top it,” Tim Wollak said. “I told [Henley] I’m pretty sure there’s no one else in her school that has ever found a shipwreck that nobody had recorded before. … I guess we’ll just have to fish more and see if we can find more shipwrecks.”

“The historical society plans to survey the wreck again in the spring of 2024 and may push to list the site on the National Register of Historic Places,” CBS announced.

According to expert estimates, the Great Lakes could be home to over 6,000 shipwrecks dating back to the late 1600s.

This discovery came after five other shipwrecks were found in the Great Lakes earlier this year.


This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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