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Thumb Area Bottomland Preserve
Mast of the Morrell with divers

Daniel J. Morrell
1907—1966

The big “C” at the tip of the pilothouse mast.

Photo by Robert Underhill
www.greatlakesunderwater.com

Many vessels transiting Lake Huron pass near Michigan's "Thumb". A scarcity of good harbors has left shipping exposed to bad weather and the concentration of shipping has led to frequent accidents.

At least 22 major shipwrecks lie in and around the Thumb Area Underwater Preserve. The entire area has been the focus of wreck hunting for decades with new discoveries every year.

Among the best shipwreck dives in or near the Thumb Area Underwater Preserve are:

Dunderburg. The schooner Dunderburg was launched in 1867. She sank off Harbor Beach after a collision on August 13, 1868. She rests fully intact in 155 feet of water. A unique, extremely well preserved figurehead adorns her bow and her cargo of grain is still sitting in her holds.

Chicamauga. A large 322-foot double deck schooner, the Chicamauga foundered on September 12, 1919. She sits in about 32 feet of water just east of Harbor Beach and is very accessible to novice divers.

Goliath. The oldest known wreck in the Preserve is the Goliath, a package and bulk freighter. She exploded and burned on September 13, 1848. Her main features are an upright engine, boiler, stove and unique early propellers. They can be examined in about 104 feet of water.

Philadelphia. The 236-foot steamer Philadelphia was built in 1868. She was lost in a collision with the steamer Albany on November 7, 1893. She is upright in 120 feet of water. The wreck is mostly intact with her cargo of heating and cooking stoves resting on the deck and scattered on the lake floor next to the hull.

Albany. The 267 foot steel steamer Albany was launched in 1846. She survived the collision with the Philadelphia on November 7, 1893 and was taken in tow. However, she foundered while undertow and came to rest close by the Philadelphia in 140 feet of water. She lies broken with her stern upright and her bow resting on its starboard side.

John McGean. The "The Great Storm" of November 9, 1913 claimed the large steel freighter John McGean. She was lost with all hands and now rests upside down in 195 feet of water.
Glenorchy. The steel steamer Glenorchy collided with another ship on October 29, 1924. She is a large wreck at 365 feet. She sits in 120 feet of water and can be penetrated by experienced divers.

Troy. This early steamer foundered in a storm in 1859 and is broken up in 94 feet of water. Divers can view her large steeple engine, boiler, unique propeller and "hogging" arches.
Iron Chief. This wooden steamer was lost in a storm on October 4, 1904. She lies broken in 129 feet of water. Whitefish are frequent visitors to this wreck, swimming around her large piles of coal.

Dump Barge. This 1880's era barge was located in 74 feet of water, just outside of Grindstone City. The wreck is frequently visited by many game fish and usually has excellent visibility. The chain and winch mechanism for opening the large dump doors are still present.

Jacob Bertschy. Lost in a storm on September 3, 1879, the 139 foot long steamer Bertschy sits in 6 feet of water southeast of the Grindstone City Harbor. This is a great shore dive for beginning divers and snorkelers, with many game fish usually seen.

Daniel J. Morrell. This large freighter was lost in a storm on November 29, 1966. The Morrell is famous for having broken into two sections with her bow coming to rest in 200 feet of water. Her stern remained under power after the loss of the bow and continued on for another 6 miles before settling into 218 feet of water. The wreck's portions lie just north of the Preserve boundary.

Gov. Smith. This 240 foot long wooden steamer foundered after colliding with the steamer Uranus, on August 19, 1906. She is up right and mostly intact in 175 feet of water.

Throughout the season, most of these shipwrecks are buoyed, at one time or another, by private groups of divers. However, it is always best to have a backup plan, in case the wreck you plan to dive is not buoyed at the time you go out.

In addition to shipwrecks, other diving opportunities exist in the Thumb Area Underwater Preserve. Limestone ledges, walls and sunken islands are located along the Port Austin reef, near the Lighthouse. The reef is covered with remnants of numerous shipwrecks, lost over the decades. Evidence of grindstone manufacture can be found off Grindstone City. Offshore from Kinch Road, in 30 feet of water, is a large woodstock anchor with 300 feet of chain.

Most of the Thumb area is a rural resort area with many state and local campgrounds and parks. No trip to the area is complete without visiting the Pte. Aux Barques Lighthouse and Shipwreck Museum at Lighthouse County Park, www.pointeauxbarqueslighthouse.org. The area also hosts numerous activities and events throughout the dive season. To learn more, consult the websites for Harbor Beach Chamber of Commerce, www.harborbeachchamber.com, the Huron County Visitor Bureau, www.huroncounty.com, Port Hope Chamber of Commerce, www.porthopemich.com, and the Greater Port Austin Chamber of Commerce, www.portaustinarea.com.

A note concerning the use of the charts in this web site:
The maps used for illustration are not intended for navigation. Our best efforts have been used to compile accurate coordinates, however, errors may occur. Indicated water depths may vary from year to year and season to season. Always evaluate weather conditions and diver abilities before diving any site. Caution: Diving is a potentially dangerous activity. Some dive sites may be outside recreational diving depth limits. Use common sense and dive within your training, skill and experience limits.

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Thumb area Bottomland Preserve map

Wreck Name Depth GPS/LAT/LON
Albany 140' 44 06.351'N
082 42.016'W
Arctic 131’ 43 41.462’N
082 28.712’W
Jacob Bertchy 6' 900' SE of Grindstone City Pier ¼ mile offshore
Chickamauga 32’ 43 50.950’N
082 37.430’W
Detroit 200’ 44 13.611’N
082 45.435’W
Dump Barge 74' 44 07.401'N
082 51.276'W
Dunderburg 155’ 43 55.641’N
082 33.391’W
Glenorchy 120’

43 48.580'N
082 31.792'W

Goliath 104’ 43 47.008’N
082 32.721’W
Iron Chief 129' 44 05.632'N
082 42.588'W
John McGean 195’ 43 57.196’N
082 31.717’W
Mystery schooner 145’ 43 57.851’N
082 35.018’W
Daniel J. Morrell stern 218’ 44 15.478’N
082 50.088’W
Daniel J. Morrell bow 205’ 44 18.320’N
082 45.161’W
Philadelphia 120' 44 04.120'N
082 42.992'W
Gov. Smith 175' 44 09.333'N
082 42.001'W
Diver Services

All Seasons Diving Company
Great Lakes Adventure Diving Excursions

PO Box 90
Dryden, MI 48428
(810) 796-2357
www.AllSeasonsDiving.com
allseasonsdiving@hotmail.com

Blue Heaven Scuba
840 S. Bridge St. Apt.5
DeWitt, MI 48820
(810) 931-9104
dive@blueheavenscuba.com
www.blueheavenscuba.com

Capital City Scuba
515 E. Grand River Ave.
Lansing, MI 48906
(517) 853-9500
www.capitalcityscuba.com

Dive & Glide
707 Washington Ave.
Bay City, MI 48708
(989) 892-6771
angieklapish@att.net

Explorer Charters
Caseville, MI 48725
(989) 550-1234
www.explorercharters.com
tom@explorercharters.com

Great Lakes Odyssey
355 Connecticut Ave.
Marysville, MI 48080
(810) 364-4974
glodyssey@comcast.net

Rec & Tec
Dive Charters, Inc.

45721 Trenton Dr.
Macomb, MI 48044
(586) 994-7858
www.rectecdivecharters.com

Sea the World Scuba Center
29480 Ten Mile Road
Farmington Hills, MI 48336
(248) 478-6400
www.seatheworld.us

ZZ Underwater World
2016 East Michigan Avenue
Lansing, MI 48912
(517) 485-3894
www.zzunderwaterworld.net

 
Links to Preserves
Alger Underwater Preserve
De Tour Passage Underwater Preserve
Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve
Isle Royale National Park
Keweenau Underwater Preserve
Manitou Passage Underwater Preserve
Marquette Underwater Preserve
Sanilac Shores Underwater Preserve
Southwest Michigan Underwater Preserve
Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Preserve
Thumb Area Bottomland Preserve
Thunder Bay Underwater Preserve
West Michigan Underwater Preserve
Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve
 
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