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Michigan Conservation Officers Recover Parts of Shipwreck

For state wildlife officers, a day on the job could entail anything from tracking down poachers to corralling nuisance bears. Dealing with both wildlife and sometimes “wild life,” the job can entail many twists and turns. 


Michigan conservation officers experienced an interesting twist recently when they recovered historical artifacts stolen from a Lake Michigan shipwreck.


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) received a tip in December that pieces of internal framework known as ribbing were being taken from a shipwreck just off Old Mission Point north of Traverse City. The wreck is that of the Metropolis, a 125-foot schooner abandoned after becoming lost in a Lake Michigan snowstorm in 1886.


The shipwreck contains two sites, one in eight feet of water and the other at 120 feet, and is part of the Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve. State officials were provided with photographs of divers removing the ribbing. Taking anything from underwater shipwrecks is illegal. 


The Great Lakes around Michigan are home to roughly 1,500 shipwrecks and 14 underwater preserves, popular with recreational divers.


State officials located two divers implicated by the photos, both of whom confessed to removing the ribbing and cooperated in returning it. Each was sentenced to 20 hours of community service and roughly $2,500 in fines.


“Shipwrecks are irreplaceable resources. They cannot be regenerated,” said Wayne Lusardi, a state maritime archaeologist with DNR’s Michigan History Center. “Unlike any other place in the world, Michigan’s fresh water allows for shipwrecks and other historical resources to be uniquely preserved.”


Jan 17, 2019 -

Hopefully the two divers, both young men in their 20s, learned a lesson. Read more about the recovery from the Michigan DNR here. 

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