Everyone says that the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is the best museum on shipwrecks in Michigan. That made it a priority on this trip. While we were staying in Sault Ste Marie, we all piled in the Shaw’s truck for an all-day outing to the museum.
The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is located in the restored Whitefish Point Light Station. The station had a lighthouse and a lifesaving station. Its location on Whitefish Point means that it is one of the most isolated places in the Upper Peninsula. It was 74 miles from our campground to the museum.
In preparation for our trip to Michigan I read the book “Great Lakes Shipwrecks and Survivals” by William Ratigan. This book was published in 1977 and includes every shipwreck that ever occurred on the Great Lakes. It is organized by lake and also includes a chapter on the most famous shipwreck, the Edmund Fitzgerald. I found the book very interesting, but I had to take a break after each chapter. I expected the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum to be a similar exhaustive description of shipwrecks.
Instead, the museum picked some representative shipwrecks and did a vignette on each one. Only one building at the station dealt with shipwrecks and it seemed small – just one room. But they packed a lot in the one room and it was interesting. In the middle of the room was a second-order Fresnel Lens. The highlight of the room was the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald which had been recovered from the wreck in 1995. A replacement memorial bell with the engraved names of all the sailors remains on the wreck.
After the museum, we moved to the video building and watched a short documentary of the recovering of the Edmund Fitzgerald Bell. We visited the restored lifesaving station, dense with artifacts, stories, and displays of rescues. We also toured the Keepers House, which looked like it would have in the 1920’s. A small building housed information about the research the Great Lakes Historical Society is funding.
A short boardwalk led over the sand dunes to the beach at Whitefish Point. We watched the waves crash along the shore for a while and saw lots of people hunting for agates on the beach. Tom and I both walked on a sand dune overlook boardwalk that had a nice view of the sand dune area turning into forest. Our final stop at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum was the gift shop. Sandy got her magnet and I looked at the books. I didn’t find anything that looked as interesting as the shipwreck book I already read. The gift shop sold fudge and some snacks, but we packed our lunch and had a picnic on the grounds.
Cost to get into the the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is $14 per adult. The museum is open daily May 1 through October 31 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The museum is run by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society. Is it the best museum on shipwrecks in Michigan? Probably, but it shouldn’t be the only one people visit. We went to four museums that talked about shipwrecks and we found each one different and interesting.