MILWAUKEE - It's a beautiful day on Lake Michigan--aboard the Mai Tai.
Captain Rick Hake is the owner of Adventure Charter Boats. He and his mates Kevin Cullen and Chris Winters are getting ready to take a dive--all the way to the bottom. They're going to check out the Prins Willem shipwreck, one of about 2,000 wrecks buried in Lake Michigan. The water at that point is about 75 feet deep, but the ship is about 90 feet below.
We ask Kevin why he is a deep water diver. He explains, "This is one of the most incredible types of outdoor adventurous things one could do."
It takes awhile to prepare, as the men put on heavy wetsuits. Proper preparation is very important, since diving can be very dangerous.
"We try to be safe as we can, but you have to recognize there have been fatalities here sadly," Kevin admits.
He says it's creepy to know that people died aboard the sunken ships now wedged into the lake's muddy base. "Many of them are graveyards." Kevin adds, "So there are some spooky kind of feelings when you think about that there's actually human remains around you."
Even though the passengers aboard the ships died many years ago, these historians say it's important to keep their memories alive.
"It tells us a little bit about ourselves as a nation, about how the United States was built on the backs of many of these boats below the water."
Divers use various forms of sonar to create images of the ships. Rick explains, "All put together in Photoshop, can you get this really great image of the ship and how the debris field goes around."
So why did all of these ships go down in the Great Lakes? Kevin says, "Wooden hulled ships often bore the brunt of these storms. They were often over-loaded with cargo."
No rough conditions on the sunny fall day we went out with the divers. They swam to the lake's bottom checking out the Prins Willem. They returned to the surface after about 15 minutes, exhilarated by the experience!
"It was like a playground, I'm tellin ya," Rick says.
A silent playground--commanding the respect of divers for years to come.
"It's definitely spooky when you're down there. Just complete silence, and the bubbles of your fellow diver," Kevin says.
Are you interested in studying a Lake Michigan shipwreck? Check out Adventure Charter Boats.