Thursday, August 20, 2015
Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center
Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center is the visitor center for the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Unlike most other marine sanctuaries, which protect sea life, this one protects shipwrecks. Unpredictable weather, murky fog banks, sudden gales, and rocky shoals have made Thunder Bay a shallow graveyard for 100s of vessels. Some of the wrecks are in such clear, shallow water that it’s possible to view them on glass bottom boat tours. It’s also a popular diving spot. However, if like us, you don’t dive and get seasick very easily, the Heritage Center has great exhibits with a lot of information.
A full-size replica of a wooden Great Lakes schooner shipwreck fills the main hall. The howling of a storm and the crew preparing to face it can be heard in the living quarters of the ship. Up on top the deck is tilted at an angle as the schooner rides the waves. The rest of the center has exhibits about the history and wildlife of the area, and details about the many shipwrecks. One room contains artifacts recovered from the Pewabic, a wooden ship carrying 175 passengers and a cargo of cooper and iron ore, that went down on August 9, 1865 after colliding with another ship. Short films on a variety of subjects are shown in a continuous loop in the theater. A section of the Alpena Bi-Path with interpretive signs can be accessed from the center.
The center and theater are accessible. The schooner living quarters is accessible and the deck can be accessed by following the ramp. The deck is slanted at such an angle that it may be difficult for visitors with wheelchairs or mobility issues to stay balanced. The Bi-Path is wide, flat and smooth.
The main parking lot is across the street from the center. Look for the sign. The sidewalks and curb cuts are good. Center