Underwater Cultural Resource Inventory
By Lisa Nyman
Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA) is home to 70 known archaeological sites--from pictographs to gravesites, shipwrecks, and more. Certainly, there are more that we don’t yet know about.
In summer 2019, Lake Superior NMCA hosted Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team, who work all over Canada taking inventory of artifacts located underwater. This was the first of several summers they will spend doing an inventory in Lake Superior.
The underwater archaeologists are collecting information to help with planning the management and conservation of shipwrecks and other underwater cultural resources found within Lake Superior NMCA. Parks Canada is dedicated to ensuring these cultural resources will be protected for the enjoyment and appreciation of present and future generations.
In spring of 2019, the team met with north shore residents to talk about the work they would be doing and to pick up some pointers about where to look for undocumented cultural sites in Lake Superior. Connecting with local people is really important, because it isn’t possible to survey Lake Superior NMCA in its entirety; and because local people have intimate knowledge of the “Big Lake” that may have been overlooked or missed in previous studies. Parks Canada relies on this local knowledge to assist in identifying areas of interest on which to focus its search efforts.
In July, the Underwater Team went into the Nipigon Straits and east to the Rossport region, visiting the wrecks of the Neebing, Mary McLachlan, Gunilda, and Ontario, to gather data using sonar. Each shipwreck tells a story, a snapshot of a specific time and place in the region, and these stories will help Parks Canada staff in sharing the history of the site. Most of the wrecks the team visited have moorings that are maintained by Save Ontario Shipwrecks’ Lake Superior Chapter.