Shipwrecks recently found in Lake Minnetonka
Many Benilde-St. Margaret’s students enjoy spending time on Lake Minnetonka boating, skiing and tanning, but this year there’s a new draw to this popular summer destination: shipwrecks. Discovered by Maritime Heritage Minnesota (MHM) using sonar and SCUBA technologies, the wrecks at the bottom of this popular summer destination will add a new level of excitement to the lake life.
MHM has worked on surveying Lake Minnetonka since 2011. “(We) determined that Lake Minnetonka needed to be surveyed completely to discover if the there were more wrecks than just the 6 found in the 1980s,” said Ann Merriman, a nautical archaeologist, maritime historian, and a founder of MHM.
The work that goes into finding each wreck is extensive. “The surveying process is like ‘mowing the lawn’, where we go back and forth in the lake and record the bottom,” said Christopher Olson, a nautical archaeologist, maritime historian, and a founder of MHM. They hope to finish scanning and analyzing by the end of May, but the work is extremely dependent on weather conditions.
Scanning is only a small part of the whole process that goes into discovering these shipwrecks. “Those waypoints that we think may be wrecks or other artifacts…are labeled as ‘anomalies,’ and we must SCUBA dive on these waypoints to determine their nature,” said Merriman.
Most of the wrecks were sunk on purpose because they had outlived their usefulness. “They would be stripped of what was considered valuable––usually brass fittings, the engines, boilers, stuff like that––and they would simply be sunk in water deep enough for them not to be a navigation hazard,” said Olson.
Unfortunately, the general public can only reach these wrecks by SCUBA diving because they are under 40 feet of water. “As long as SCUBA divers visit the wrecks and do no damage to them…then MHM welcomes interested divers to visit––but not hurt the wrecks––and learn from them,” said Olson.
So far there are nine confirmed wrecks, but MHM is confident there are more. “In the Lower Lake and Crystal Bay, MHM believes an additional 9 anomalies found during the survey are probably wrecks, and another 13 more anomalies may be wrecks as well.” said Merriman.