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HomeNewsWisconsin Man and His Daughter Stumble on a Century-Old Shipwreck While Fishing

Wisconsin Man and His Daughter Stumble on a Century-Old Shipwreck While Fishing

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A picture of the wreckage found while Tim was fishing
Source: MSN

When Tim Wollak and his 6-year-old daughter set out to fish on this fateful day, they thought it would be a regular fishing trip. Little did they know that they were about to make a mind-blowing discovery. 

Tim and his daughter Henley are regulars at Lake Michigan, located on Wisconsin’s Green Island. In an interview with CNN’s WLUK, he mentioned that the duo love fishing together. While Tim tries to catch fish, his daughter collects rocks and sea glass. So, this was their routine until that day. 

While Tim was fishing, Henley thought she saw something unusual but assumed it was a “rare” Green Bay Octopus. She called her father’s attention to it, and he did not know what it was at first, either. On closer inspection, Tim realized it wasn’t a rare octopus.

Instead, this was something much more rare. It was a never-before-seen wreck of a ship that sank in 1871. Of course, Tim didn’t know that at first sight, so he had help figuring it out. They were “just kind of driving around, and there it was. I was surprised I had never seen it before because it’s in an area where people regularly go,” said Tim to WLUK. 

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After spotting the wreck, Tim tried to identify the ship online. However, he could not figure it out as no vessel was previously marked in that area. So, he contacted the historical society’s Maritime Preservation and Archaeology Program to help with his research. 

This discovery piqued their curiosity, and so they decided to help. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Conservation also helped with unearthing this discovery. On December 4, their crew used a remote-operated vehicle to investigate the shipwreck.

They saw the wooden three-masted sailing ship sitting about 8 to 10 feet deep in the water. Officials have not given a definite identification of the vessel, but there is only one guess going around. The location of the wreck and the available data match the barkentine George L. Newman of the 1800s. 

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According to local reports, American travelers built this ship in 1855 in Ohio, which was 122 feet long. Sadly, the ship wrecked on October 8, 1871. Sources say the vessel was sailing through heavy smoke from the Great Peshtigo Fire, and the deadliest forest fire in US history caused its wreckage. 

Thankfully, the crew survived this wreckage with help from a lighthouse keeper. They stayed at the lighthouse for a week and salvaged what they could from the shipwreck during that period. 

Not long after, they left, abandoning the ship and leaving it in the water. It was “abandoned, became covered with sand, and was largely forgotten” until Tim and his daughters spotted it in 2023.  

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This is undoubtedly a one-in-a-lifetime discovery, and the father-daughter duo may never top this. Tim even mentioned this in his interview with WLUK.

“I don’t know how we top it,” Tim said. “I told her I’m pretty sure there’s no one else in her school that has ever found a shipwreck that nobody had recorded before….I guess we’ll just have to fish more and see if we can find more shipwrecks.”

Later next year, the Wisconsin Historical Society will survey the wreck and assess it for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

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