Julie A. Jacob for the Journal Times
ROOT – There are hundreds of years of history to explore in our Great Lakes, and even during the pandemic, Wisconsin maritime archaeologists have continued to explore and document this rich history.
The Racine Lighthouse and Maritime Preservation Society (RLAMPS) will host a presentation with maritime archaeologist Caitlin Zant on Tuesday, March 22. She will highlight some of the State Historic Preservation Office’s recent investigative projects at Dewey’s Restaurant and Sports Bar, 600 Main St.
Zant will focus on three recent shipwreck studies. One study looked at the schooner Abiah, which sank in 1854 off Sheboygan. The wreck was discovered in 2019 by wreck explorer Steve Radovan.
“He drove us to where he was and we were able to register the site,” Zant said. The Preservation Office then worked with a company in Massachusetts to create a 3D image of the wreckage, she added.
Zant will also talk about Preservation Office records of the schooner Advance, which sank in 1885 in 85 feet of water near Sheboygan, and the steamer Sidney O. Neff, which sank in 1939 in shallow water near Marinette.
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Recordings of Preservation Office webinars discussing these investigations are available at wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Article/CS16271.
Additionally, she will discuss the Office of Preservation’s discovery of a pond net fishing site in Whitefish Bay, Door County. Pond net fishing, common in the 19th century, consisted of wooden stakes driven into the lake bed that were attached to nets that trapped the fish.
“We located a lot of these structures in Whitefish Bay, which tells a whole different story about the fishing community that existed in Door County in the early 20th century – the early 1900s is probably the last time that this style of fishing was used. said Zant. “In this case, we found quite a few in different configurations. This shows that there was quite a large group of fishermen in the area.
Finally, Zant will talk about the discovery of a canoe that one of his colleagues found last year while scuba diving in Lake Mendota. Carbon dating indicated the canoe is around 1,200 years old and was likely built by ancestors of members of today’s Ho Chunk Nation, she said.
The canoe is being preserved and will eventually be displayed in the Wisconsin Historical Society’s new museum, which is expected to be completed in 2026. The new museum will be larger and have a greater focus on Wisconsin’s maritime history than the museum current.
“He played a major role in the development of the state,” Zant commented. “It will take a much bigger step than it does now.”
The Wisconsin Historical Society’s Maritime Archeology and Preservation Program is dedicated to the preservation of Wisconsin’s historic shipwrecks and other non-renewable underwater cultural resources. Since its inception in 1988, the cornerstones of the program have been:
- Systematic field survey and documentation activities.
- Background research on written documents, images and in-person interviews.
- Using state-of-the-art technology.
- Proactive public awareness and education programs designed for audiences of all ages.
The Wisconsin Historical Society’s Maritime Preservation and Archeology Initiative was created in January 1988 in response to the passage of the US Abandoned Shipwrecks Act of 1987. This act gave the state responsibility for managing historic shipwrecks abandoned in state waters. The program became an active research unit of the state archaeological program.