500 W. Fletcher, Alpena, MI 49707
Another thing I didn’t know about Alpena was that they do tons of shipwreck research there. At the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a place called the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, and they have everything there to educate you on Michigan’s incredible maritime history. Alpena has become an international dive site for shipwreck research and shipwreck dive enthusiasts from around the world. There are over two hundred historical wrecks right off the coast at a variety of depths. From giant, multi-masted sailboats to paddle wheelers and steamers, there are tons of wrecks to discover and explore.
At the Heritage center you’ll also find really cool replicas of many of the ships that lay at the bottom just off shore. You can see what they looked like, read their stories and get lost in the mysteries of their demise. They even have underwater videos of the wrecks you can view.
My favorite exhibit is the life-sized replica of a great lakes schooner you can actually get aboard and walk on. Even though the boat is indoors, with lights and sound, they simulate what it must have been like to be out on the lakes in a tremendous storm. You can even go below and see what cabin life was like. I’d say this is big fun for kids, but I think I liked it even more.
They also do serious research at the center. While we were there, Sarah Waters showed us some of the artifacts they had retrieved and were studying. They had hundreds of them from hundreds of ships resting hundreds of feet below the surface, and some of them were hundreds of years old. Very cool to see!