Thunder Bay Daytrip - Alpena, Michigan


NOAA - Alpena, Michigan - NOAA Thunder Bay


shipA visit to the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center will open up a whole new world of discovery. This is the only National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency, NOAA, location at a fresh water facility in the world. The facility offers a number of entertaining and educational programs, that highlight the value of our irreplaceable natural resources. The conservation and preservation of the Great Lakes, containing 20% of the fresh water on earth, is the real work. The protection of the environment is the goal.

The center is the starting point for exploring the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary sanctuary that protects the shipwrecks and the diving areas. The visitors center offers 10,000 square feet of interactive exhibits showcasing the history, shipwrecks and archaeology of Thunder Bay and the Great Lakes in General. In the middle of the visitors center is a full size replica of a wooden schooner. Visitors can climb aboard and experience what a Great Lakes storm would feel like on the tossing deck.

Among the valuable educational programs supported by the Sanctuary is an underwater robotics competition. The competition allows students to engage in underwater missions using underwater remote operated vehicles. The missions are based on real world scenarios like exploring sunken ships. It was this kind of vehicle that was used to help map and photograph the constructions deep underwater on the Alpena-Amberly ridge.

There on the bed of Lake Huron is the ancient land bridge, that stretched from Alpena to Ontario, 9,000 years ago. The land bridge was a migration route for caribou. Human hunters constructed stone structures designed to channel the animals into killing zones. The structures are still there deep underwater. When these structures were built, the environment was far different than today. The land bridge was above the water. The immense glacier that was carving out the Great Lakes was receding north. At that time the glacier was only about 100 miles north and was visible as it was still nearly a mile thick. Remarkably, the constructions bear a resemblance to those built and in use today in the arctic regions where caribou still follow the annual migration patterns. Without preservation and exploration in clean clear waters, these artifacts might have been lost forever.