Most information provided by the DEQ’s Michigan Underwater Preserves page.
The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron off Alpena was designated in 2000 as one of only 13 national marine sanctuaries in the United States. The designation created the first Great Lakes national marine sanctuary, building upon the existing state underwater preserve designated in 1981. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the State of Michigan jointly manage the sanctuary and underwater preserve.
In 1679, LaSalle’s Griffin became the first major European vessel to pass by Thunder Bay, with many more in its wake. Not all made the journey safely, and with nearly 200 wrecks the 488 square mile sanctuary and underwater preserve has one of the highest densities of shipwrecks per square mile of any point on the Great Lakes. Divers will find many shipwrecks in a protected bay as well as many fascinating sites just beyond the bay itself. Great visibility makes underwater photography especially popular in this preserve.
The Nordmeer is one of the most popular dive sites of the sanctuary and underwater preserve. It has been described as 550 feet of “pure delight” This German steel steamer stranded on the rocks of Thunder Bay Shoal in November 1966. Because the maximum depth at this site is only 40 feet, this is a great place for those who have little or no shipwreck diving experience. The hull of the Nordmeer is intact and large cargo hatches provide easy access and permit sunlight to penetrate the interior. Next to the wreck of the Nordmeer is a steel barge that also provides exploration opportunities.
The Montana was a 235 foot steamer that burned and sank in 1914. The wreck lies in 70 feet of water and rises 30 feet from the bottom. Some of the hull of the Montana remains and divers enjoy inspecting many of the artifacts that are associated with this wreck, including the machinery. This site usually hosts many fish and it is a good place for underwater photography. Divers with basic skills can view the engine at 40 feet. Intermediate divers will enjoy exploring other portions of the wreck.
East of the Montana lies the wreck of the Grecian (pictured above), a steamer that sank in 1906. Several salvage attempts failed and the remains of the steam engine offer divers a fascinating experience. The deck of the Grecian lies in 75 feet of water.
The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve offers many shallow shipwrecks perfect for those new to the Great Lakes shipwrecks diving. Many dive sites have been buoyed by the local dive club. Dive charter services are available. Shore diving is very limited because of the shallows and beaches.
As part of its focus on cultural resource protection, education, research and recreation, the Sanctuary includes the 20,000 square foot Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center. The Center features state-of-the-art shipwreck and Great Lakes exhibits, an auditorium and research facilities. You can even explore shipwrecks in real time via live video feeds.
Get travel, business & dive shop information for Alpena from Absolute Michigan and view more great diving photos from some of the shipwrecks mentioned in the Thunder Bay Sanctuary’s 2007 Fieldwork Gallery.