Lurking Beneath Lake Superior's Waves
(ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: MAY/JUNE 2005)
One step off the stern of the Linda K will plunge me into about 30 feet of jade-color water that is, at roughly 55 degrees, closer to the temperature of iced tea than a swimming pool. But Lake Superior's cold water isn't what makes me pause. The yellow-and-black dry suit Capt. Linda Laraway zipped me into is warm enough to send sweat drops rolling down my back.
I hesitate with my flippers sticking over the edge of the steel diving platform because I know it's down there. Somewhere beneath the lapping waves of Murray Bay, the silent wreck of the Bermuda waits. It's why I've come on this snorkeling charter, after all, but now that I know it's only yards away, yet still invisible, I feel like I'm about to step through the creaky door of a haunted house.
"It's that way," Linda says, pointing straight behind her boat. With that gentle nudge, I clamp my hand over my facemask to hold it in place and step off the boat. The air trapped in the drysuit quickly has me bobbing on the surface. With my face in the water, I can see about 20 feet in any direction. I blow the water from my snorkel, take a breath and kick away from the Linda K, waiting for the 19th-century wreck of the Bermuda, killer of three sailors, to show itself.
The 136-foot wooden schooner sank off Munising on the north-central shore of Michigan's Upper Peninsula in 1870, becoming one of 10,000 or so sailing ships, steamboats and mammoth diesel freighters scattered across all five Great Lakes. Lake Superior alone has claimed about 1,300. Each ship's death added to the vast collection of underwater artifacts, tourist attractions and a thousand winter evenings' worth of stories filled with tragedy, heroism and spectral sailors and ships.