When Captain Peter Lindquist discovered a prehistoric forest almost 200 feet under Lake Superior, he was amazed.
Capt. Lindquist became excited when his depth finder showed what appeared to be masts standing up off the bottom in 180 feet of water. Gearing up with double tanks, he and his partner started down on their very deep dive with high expectations of dropping onto a shipwreck standing intact on the bottom. Instead of masts, however, they found themselves among several tall trees standing upright on the lake bottom! “Upright on the lake floor, the trees were one to two feet in diameter and perhaps 15 to 20 feet high, with branches intact. Sitting on the bottom, it was like looking up through maples” Though he never left the dive line, Captain Lindquist saw at least five trees at the site.
Another mysterious tree was found amid the wreckage of the wooden freighter HERMAN H. HETTLER in Munising’s East Channel. Suspecting that the tree was extremely old, Captain Pete Lindquist sent samples of the wood for carbon dating. The laboratory results showed an age of 7,910 years plus or minus l00 years, but provided no clue as to why a nearly 8,000 year old tree would be found amid the remains of a 1926 shipwreck.
Where did these trees come from ?
It is probable that thousands of years ago when the lake level was lower, the trees actually grew where they now stand. A parallel might be drawn with the Gribben Forest, a stand of 10,000 year old spruce trees uncovered during the excavation of a tailings basin for the Tilden Mine in Marquette County. Some of the Gribben trees were still standing where they had grown and had been buried by sand and silt washed out from a melting glacier at the end of the last Ice Age. During the Ice Age, the Great Lakes, as well as the oceans, were believed to have been much lower than present levels due to the tremendous amount of water frozen in the glaciers that covered much of the continents. The trees might have grown on the southern shores of a smaller, shallower Lake Superior and drowned when the lake level rose with the melting of the glaciers.
Lake Superior is rising, but some parts are rising faster than others. The north shore is heaving upward at a faster rate, so the water is running south. The lake bottom is adjusting, like a tilting bowl. Over the past several thousand years, southern shoreline forests flooded as the north shore became increasingly high and dry, according to Curt Larsen, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Va.
Information from The Mining Journal, Oct 6, 1991 and the book Dangerous Coasts, Pictured Rocks Shipwrecks, by Stonehouse and Fountain, available at the Shipwreck Bookstore