Faculty reveal steamboat shipwreck survey results

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During a March 24 presentation, Grand Valley State University faculty revealed new sonar images of a steamboat shipwreck at the bottom of Reeds Lake, along with new information about the condition of the wreck.

Mark Gleason, assistant professor of tourism and hospitality management, and Mark Schwartz, associate professor of anthropology, are leading the collaborative project. The team's dive resulted in “excellent documentation” of the Steam Ship Hazel A. thanks to the team’s sector scan sonar.

An acoustic picture was created that gives the research team a fairly clear view of the wreck, including elements of its construction and design, such as the boiler, the space between the frames and the hull curvature. This image will now allow them to document the type of mid-sized excursion steamboats used in the late 19th, early 20th century.

The images also indicated that the Hazel A. is in one piece and sitting upright on the bottom of Reeds Lake.

More than 100 people gathered in East Grand Rapids to hear the team present findings from the recent February 20 expedition. The event also included a presentation of the history of the wrecks and the Poisson family, descendants of early steamboat captains on Reeds Lake, provided schematics of the S.S. Hazel A.

The project aims to digitally document sunken steamboats in the lake in order to learn more about the naval architecture that went into a steamboat designed for tourism versus a steamboat designed for trade.

Some law enforcement and local divers have traveled beneath the water to these shipwrecks in the past, however, Grand Valley’s group is the first academic research team to explore the wrecks.

Funded by Grand Valley’s Center for Scholarly and Creative Excellence, the team is also comprised of Matthew Daley, associate professor of history at Grand Valley; Brian Abbott, owner of Nautilus Marine Group; Mark Holley, professor of cultural anthropology and underwater archaeology at Northwestern Michigan College; David Cummins from the Marine Technology Program at Alpena Community College; and Mary Dersch, curator of the East Grand Rapids History Room, among many others.

For more information, contact Mark Gleason at (616) 331-8828.