Off the coast of Alpena, Mich., submerged under the fresh waters of Lake Huron, lie more stories of mystery, adventure, sorrow and courage than any fictional book or movie could possibly contain. Known as Thunder Bay for its unpredictable weather, this stretch of water in the Great Lake system has claimed more than 200 vessels that attempted a voyage as part of the commercial shipping industry from the early 1800s on. There along the lake’s sandy floor rests remnant collections of the sailing and motor vessels, and barges – some still very much intact – each with its own unique history and story to tell.
The Monohansett was one such ill-fated ship. On Nov. 23, 1907, the wooden steamer hauling its cargo of coal made it through a vicious storm, only for the engine to catch fire, setting the ship ablaze. The 12-person crew was able to escape, but the Monohansett burned and sunk to its final resting place 18 feet below the water’s surface at the edge of Thunder Bay.
Today, the Monohansett and over 50 other shipwrecks are now protected as part of the 448-square-mile Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary off the shore of Alpena. History buffs and maritime enthusiasts can witness the sanctuary firsthand when visiting the town.
Start your excursion off by visiting the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center that serves as the visitors’ center for the sanctuary. There, one can gain an understanding of the boats that were taken victim by Thunder Bay; walk the decks of replica ships, experience a Great Lakes’ “storm” and see exhibits and galleries of actual artifacts that survived the wrecks. The center is open year-round and the best part is that admission is free! Visit http://thunderbay.noaa.gov to learn more.
Once visitors have learned about the history behind the ships, one can choose a variety of options to experience them up close and personal! Skilled divers can stop by Thunder Bay Scuba or Great Lakes Divers to get scuba or snorkeling gear to access the deeper wrecks or view the shallow-water wrecks via kayak and canoe – available through Adventureland Sports. And for those who would like to stay perfectly dry, Alpena Shipwreck Tours offers a unique exploration experience on a glass-bottom boat.
At the end of your sight-seeing expedition of Thunder Bay, return to dry land to dine at The Cellar Restaurant and Lounge which offers one of Alpena’s most unique dining experiences, The Cellar provides visitors with a menu of local fish and seafood, along with meats and fine wines. For dinner try the blackened Ahi Tuna with hot soy mustard or if stopping in for brunch before a weekend shipwreck excursion the vanilla bean waffle with warm honey is a must have on their classic brunch menu. This local dining hot spot overlooking the Thunder Bay River is the perfect addition to your Alpena “voyage.”
Known as Sanctuary of the Great Lakes, this small city truly offers visitors a historical experience like no other. And daily flights from both Minneapolis and Detroit make getting to Alpena easy. Ready to book a trip “back in time”? Visit www.Delta.com to schedule a flight today!