These Splendid Times: Maritime Archeology in Wisconsin

For July 1, 2020

Please share this missive with your friends & neighbors.

Hi WN@TL Fans,

It’s July 1. We straddle the halfway point of 2020, the Year of Ideal Visual Acuity. With jaded eyes, we foresee foggy phantoms of what may lie ahead in the coming six months, while smoke and confusion cloud our vision of the previous six.

Day by day, month by month, we lay down history, and the stratigraphy of the daily sediment becomes part of how we tell our story.  All this while the proverbial sands of time cover over the sharp contours of our current affairs.

We are in an extraordinarily high-water year, in terms of the level of lakes and rivers. The high water can wash ashore remains of wooden ships.   But in comparably low-water years, on occasion the ribs of boats long-ago sunk and long-ago forgotten can reappear in the mudflats of our rivers or in sandbars of our lakes. We can once again get a clearer view of the remains of vessels—of wood, iron or steel— that carried goods and people on the arteries of commerce.

We are now in a metaphorical high water year for maritime archeology.

In November, Governor Evers announced his support for the petition to NOAA to renew the proposal for the Wisconsin-Lake Michigan National Marine Sanctuary.

In December, the State Register of Historic Places added the wreck of the sidewheel steamboat “War Eagle,” resting on the bottom of the Mississippi at La Crosse, to its list of sites.

In April, Wisconsin Seagrant funded a two-year outreach program with Caitlin Zant at the helm and featuring the archeology of the ships of Wisconsin’s lumber trade.

So to mark these happy maritimes, this week we dive into our WN@TL archive at PBS Wisconsin’s University Place website to feature three talks on shipwreck archeology:  one by Caitlin Zant, one by Tamara Thomsen, and one by both Tamara Thomsen and Suzze Johnson.

These are among our finest storytellers, telling some of our finest stories.

Tamara Thomsen and Suzze Johnson


Tamara Thomsen


Caitlin Zant

Explore more about the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Maritime Preservation & Archeology Program.


Sometimes, you never know what splendid stuff you’ll find when you look beneath the water.


I hope to see you sometime soon once we can resume Wednesday Nite @ The Lab.

Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Division of Extension, Wisconsin 4-H


UW-Madison:  5.8 million owners, one pretty good public land-grant teaching, research and extension university.

Visit UW-Madison’s science outreach portal at for information on the people, places & programs on campus that welcome you to come experience science as exploring the unknown, all year round.

Here are the components of the WN@TL User’s Guide:

  1. The live WN@TL seminar, every Wednesday night, 50 times a year, at 7pm CT (on hiatus as of March 11, 2020)
  2. The live web stream at on hiatus)
  3. The WN@TL YouTubechannel
  4. WN@TL on the University Placebroadcast channel of PBS Wisconsin
  5. WN@TL on the University Place website

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