“Sunken Treasure”: Documentary explores Great Lakes shipwrecks, promotes respectful diving

With hundreds of shipwrecks scattered across the bottom of the Great Lakes, divers have access to an unrivaled underwater playground. The freshwater environment lends itself to preserving shipwrecks so well, some ships look ready to board.

A diver explores the wreck of the Eliza H. Strong vessel. Photo: Michael Lynch.

A diver explores the wreck of the Eliza H. Strong vessel. Photo: Michael Lynch.

Divers tempted to swipe an artifact for their mantle or crank a wheel and pretend to sail away could be fined or even imprisoned. A recent documentary aims to educate those with misguided intentions before it gets that far.

“Sunken Treasure: Preserving Michigan’s Shipwrecks” was recently released by the Michigan Underwater Preserve Council to foster respect of Great Lakes shipwrecks and preserve the fragile ecosystems that surround them.

The film is indicative of the diving community’s more mindful attitude towards preservation and shipwrecks, said diver/instructor Michael Lynch, who runs the Great Lakes diving aficionado website MichiganDiver.com.

“In the 70s and 80s, it was common for divers to dive to gather artifacts off of shipwrecks,” he said. “As the scuba industry evolved in the Great Lakes, it became apparent that there was a need to preserve the shipwrecks for future generations.”

Although the film targets curious divers who may be causing serious harm to the wreck sites, it also serves as a short historical account of some of the region’s most tragic shipwrecks.

The 28-minute version of the video, which aired on PBS, is now available for viewing below. A limited number of free copies of the DVD can be obtained by emailing executive producer Ron Bloomfield at MUPCunderwatertreasures@charter.net.