A few months back I wrote about a research expedition to study shipwrecks under Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids, Michigan. This past Friday, the researchers were finally able to come together and complete the dive. I had the opportunity to spend the day out on the ice observing.
Mapping The S.S. Hazel A
The 100-foot S.S. Hazel A sunk in 1923 somewhere under the murky waves of East Grand Rapids’ Reeds Lake. As I wrote several months back, the researchers hoped to document and survey what still remains of this ship. Lead researcher Dr. Mark Schwartz of Grand Valley State University told me that “we have a chance to document and record this part of our local history while the preservation is still good.”
The researchers brought in Brian Abbott, owner of the Nautilus Marine Group. Abbott is a veteran of the marine technology world with experience in underwater engineering and acoustics. He brought with him a Kongsberg Mesotech MS 1000 sonar unit, pictured below.
Locating the ship was the first order of business. Researchers drilled test holes across the lake center in order to lower the high-resolution sonar scanner into the frigid water. The initial scans helped pinpoint the ship’s location and orientation. From that point onward, the team moved around and over the wreckage, drilling and scanning from every conceivable angle.
One thing the researchers hoped to accomplish was to build an accurate, detailed image of the ship. As Schwartz explained, “we can also look in detail at the construction of these vessels and compare them to the existing plans in the Poisson family collection in order to examine the use of space, ship modification and construction technology.”
As it would turn out, the S.S. Hazel A. is still in remarkable condition. The high-resolution sonar imaging will provide invaluable data for the team to review in the coming months before their presentation to the general public. Another lead researcher, Dr. Mark Gleason, also hoped to locate the remains of the S.S. Ramona, but the weather conditions and time constraints dictated otherwise.
Alpena Community College (ACC) provided the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) pictured above. ACC Marine Technology Program Advisor David Cummins was on-site to operate the ROV and advise on technical aspects of the dive. Unfortunately, the unusually thick ice made visibility a significant problem. It is unclear what, if any, useable information will come from the ROV.
Another key member of the research team was Dr. Mark Holley of Northwestern Michigan College and the Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve. His research specialization is underwater archaeology and he helped direct drilling and sonar dives.