About the Ghost Ships Festival

The Ghost Ships Festival is two-day public, community event held annually in Wisconsin to promote research, education and public awareness of Great Lakes maritime history through the stories, remains and underwater archeology of Great Lakes shipwrecks.

Founded in Milwaukee in 1999, the Ghost Ships Festival brings together scuba divers, underwater archeologists, maritime historians, state and federal agencies, community tourism resources, local educators, academic archeology programs, diving charter businesses, dive equipment manufacturers and lakeshore communities to celebrate, study, promote and experience our area’s rich maritime history through the vehicle of ships that were lost on the Great Lakes.

The Ghost Ships Festival is hosted by the Wisconsin Underwater Archeology Association, a 501c3 non-profit organization that trains interested members of the public to assist professional underwater archeologists in researching, surveying and documenting historic shipwreck sites.

The Ghost Ships Festival is co-sponsored by the Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary, the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Maritime Archeology program and the Wisconsin Maritime Museum.

The Ghost Ships Festival includes presentations and workshops by avocational shipwreck hunters, professional and avocational underwater archeologists, documentary producers and maritime historians as well as performances and displays by regional musicians and artists.

Friday, March 1

5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Exhibit Hall Open

Ghost Ships Festival kick off with a Cash Bar and Vendor Booths open to the public


7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Wayne Lusardi

Lake Huron Red Tails! Lost Tuskegee Airmen Project


8:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Lee Murdock

Live Musical Performance at the Inn on Maritime Bay



Saturday, March 2

8:30 a.m.

Exhibit Hall Open

Exhibition & Vendor space open to the public.


9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

Andrew Goodman, Stefan McDaniel, Ken Merryman, Zach Whitrock

Roundtable: Using 3D Photogrammetry for Documentation and Interpretation of Shipwrecks


10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

Kendra Kennedy

National Register of Historic Places: Protecting Ships, Shipwrecks and Maritime Cultural Landscapes


11:00 a.m. - Noon

Caitlin Zant

Two Years Before teh Mast: Shipwrecks, Heritage, and the Future in the Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary


Noon - 1:00 p.m.

Lunch Break

Lunch options available on site, or at local restaurants


1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Ken Merryman & Jerry Eliason

The Search for and Discovery of the HENRY STEINBRENNER.


2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Brendon Baillod & Bob Jaeck

Discovery and Documentation of the Schooner Trinidad: A Case Study in Managing Shipwreck Finds.


3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Yvonne Drebert & Zack Melinick

All Too Clear: Using ROVs to Explore the Great Lakes


4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Dan Fountain

He Went Down with His Ship: New Discovery in Lake Superior


Tickets Available

Events

Tables

Sponsors

Event Speakers

Wayne Lusardi, Michigan State Underwater Archeologist

Lake Huron Red Tails! The Tuskegee Airmen Project

Beginning in August 2015, Michigan’s State Maritime Archaeologist Wayne R. Lusardi has led multiple expeditions to lower Lake Huron where in April 1944, a Bell P-39Q Airacobra flown by 22-year-old Tuskegee airman First Lieutenant Frank H. Moody, crashed into the lake during a World War II training exercise. Lt. Moody was killed, and the aircraft was not found until 2014. The State of Michigan, partnering with the National Museum of the Tuskegee Airmen in Detroit, is conducting archaeological survey, documentation, recovery and conservation of the aircraft and its components.

Bio: Wayne R. Lusardi is Michigan’s State Maritime Archaeologist with the Department of Natural Resources. His job includes researching and documenting the nearly 1,500 shipwrecks located in the state. He is involved in all aspects of fieldwork, survey, research, education and outreach. Wayne has an extensive background in underwater and terrestrial archaeology, artifact conservation, and material culture studies. He was previously employed as an archaeological conservator for the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia and excavated the USS Monitor’s turret after its recovery in 2002. Wayne also spent four years on the Blackbeard shipwreck project in North Carolina. He received his MA degree in Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology from East Carolina University in 1998, and a BS in anthropology from Illinois State University.

Schedule

Lee Murdock

Lee Murdock has uncovered a boundless body of music and stories in the Great Lakes. Taking snapshots from history, his songs summon the listener to take a front-row seat, to look through the eyes and into the hearts of individuals who have shaped our heritage on and around the Great Lakes. His concerts invoke a sense of place, but it is a universal place, and a timeless repertoire that celebrates the North American people, their triumphs and tragedies, work songs and pastimes.

Noted as a fluent instrumentalist on six and twelve string guitars, Murdock combines ragtime, Irish, blues and folk styles with this flair for storytelling in songs. His musical influences span fifteen generations, and combine original compositions with traditional music.

There is an amazing timelessness in this music. Great Lakes songs are made of hard work, hard living, ships that go down and ships that come in. The music is grounded in the work song tradition, from the rugged days of lumberjacks and wooden sailing schooners. Murdock comes alongside with ballads of contemporary commerce and revelry in the grand folk style. Lee’s fans have discovered a sweetwater treasure in his songs about the Great Lakes, finding drama and inspiration in the lives of sailors and fishermen, lighthouse keepers, ghosts, shipwrecks, outlaws and everyday heroes. For more about Lee and to purchase his music, visit: https://leemurdock.com/

Schedule

Dan Fountain

He Went Down with His Ship: New Discovery in Lake Superior

Join Upper Michigan diver and maritime historian Dan Fountain as he reveals the identity of a major new shipwreck discovery on Lake Superior that was made this summer. He will tell the dramatic story of the ship and her crew as well as the captain who went down with his ship.

Schedule

Kendra Kennedy

Protecting Ships, Shipwrecks and Maritime Cultural Landscapes

Learn about the designation progress for nominating shipwrecks and historic vessels to the National Register of Historic Places. Explore the process through the rich histories, photography, and site plans of Wisconsin shipwrecks. Discover why some states choose these actions to help manage their submerged resources and how through theses nominations in combination with State and Federal laws, we protect and preserve submerged cultural sites.

Kendra Kennedy is a maritime archaeologist at the Wisconsin Historical Society with over 20 years of experience in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Gulf South. She has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame and a Master of Arts from the University of West Florida. She has previously worked as an archaeological consultant, SHPO reviewer, academic instructor, and grant writer for various organizations and agencies. Her maritime archaeology project highlights include survey and investigation of a sixteenth-century Spanish shipwreck in Florida, field investigation of a possible War of 1812 gunboat in Maryland, archival research into a World War II-era wreck in the Aleutian Islands, and investigation and research into numerous nineteenth- and twentieth-century shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic, and inland rivers. She currently serves as a board member of the Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology and is the archaeological advisor for the Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago. She is particularly passionate about public outreach and working with avocational archaeologists and citizen scientists to advance the discipline.

Schedule

Ken Merryman

The Search for and Discovery of the Henry Steinbrenner

The 427-foot Henry Steinbrenner was built in Port Huron, MI in 1901 for the Kinsman Transportation Company. It was one of several ore freighters built with telescoping hatch covers which were contributing factors to its sinking fifty-two years later in a Lake Superior storm on May 11, 1953. It sank thirteen miles south of Isle Royale Light killing seventeen of its thirty-one crew members as they tried to abandon the sinking ship. For Jerry Eliason and Ken Merryman, it was one of their most sought-after targets as it also was for several other search teams. Finding it in September of 2023 capped a nine-year intermittent search effort. Although their exploration and documentation of the 750-foot-deep site is far from done, they will share with you the early results of their discovery.

Bio: Ken Merryman is past president and founding member of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Preservation Society. He is a retired computer engineer and a veteran speaker at scuba shows around the Great Lakes. Ken has been an avid Great Lakes shipwreck hunter and diver for 50 plus years and operated a scuba diving charter service for 40 years. Although his charter business operated mostly at Isle Royale National Park, he also frequents all of the Great Lakes diving and searching for new shipwrecks with his shipwreck hunting partner of thirty years Jerry Eliason. Their shipwreck hunting partnership is responsible for the discovery of thirty shipwrecks and the initial exploration and documentation of a half dozen more including the discovery of the deepest shipwreck found in the Great Lakes the Scotiadoc at 870 ft deep. In efforts to preserve these discoveries through the GLSPS and often in cooperation with Wisconsin Historical Society he has helped add eight shipwrecks to the National Register of Historic Places. In cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport they have done the initial documentation to list five of the discoveries as archaeological sites. Now their initial documentation includes photogrammetry models and Ken is leading a massive GLSPS project to create a database of photogrammetry models of all Great Lakes Shipwrecks crowd sourced through the diving community. The last seven summers Ken and friends have been circum-navigating the Great Lakes in his 1947 Owens Cruiser. He has cruised over 22,000 miles covering most of all five of the lakes finding ten new shipwrecks and creating over a hundred and fifty shipwreck photogrammetry models along the way.

Schedule

Jerry Eliason

The Search for and Discovery of the Henry Steinbrenner

Jerry Eliason started diving in the small lakes around Rice Lake Wisconsin in 1966. His first dive in Lake Superior was in 1968 with a wetsuit but without hood, boots, or gloves. From 1976 to 1989, he logged over 700 wreck dives. After a case of the bends in 1989, he has focused his attention on locating previously undiscovered shipwrecks. In collaboration with Kraig Smith, Ken Merryman, Randy Beebe, son Jarrod, and wife Karen; Jerry has been part of 13 successful shipwreck hunts including the 'went missing' wrecks BENJAMIN NOBLE and HENRY B. SMITH. The most recent discovery Jerry participated in is the SCOTIADOC. 875 feet deep; the SCOTIADOC is the deepest shipwreck ever discovered in the Great Lakes. This past December, he received the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award. Jerry plans to retire from shipwreck hunting once he finds the U-656; the first German U-Boat sunk by US Forces in World War II.

Schedule

Producer Yvonne Drebert and Director/Cinematographer Zach Melnick

All Too Clear: Using ROVs to Explore the Great Lakes

Documentary filmmakers, Yvonne Drebert and Zach Melnick, are using cutting-edge underwater drones to explore how quadrillions of tiny invasive mussels are re-engineering the ecosystem of the Great Lakes, at a scale not seen since the glaciers. While shooting for their latest film, All Too Clear, the team made an unexpected discovery - the wreck of the Africa. The ship was lost during an early season snowstorm in 1895, with eleven sailors aboard. In the summer of 2023 Melnick and Drebert found the wreck off the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula - to solve the 128-year-old mystery of what became of the Africa.

Bio: Producer Yvonne Drebert and Director/Cinematographer Zach Melnick are the founders of Inspired Planet Productions. From their home on the beautiful Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula in Ontario, Canada, the husband-and-wife team have created more than 40 hours of nature and history documentary spanning two decades, including the 2021 Canadian Screen Award nominated series, Striking Balance. Driven by a profound concern for the global decline of freshwater ecosystems, Drebert and Melnick have embarked on a dedicated mission into the underwater world. Using cutting-edge ROVs (remotely operated underwater vehicles), they immerse themselves in rarely seen aquatic environments, capturing extraordinary wildlife behaviours, and even discovering the occasional shipwreck. Their mission is threefold: to inspire the public, deepen scientific understanding, and enlighten decision-makers about the freshwater ecosystems we all depend on. http://alltooclearfilm.com/

Schedule

Caitlin Zant

Two Years Before the Mast

Designated in 2021, Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary (WSCNMS) provides stewardship for our nation's maritime heritage in Lake Michigan. Co-managed by NOAA and the State of Wisconsin, the sanctuary expands on the state's 30-year management of these historic sites, bringing new opportunities for research, resource protection, and education. This presentation will explore how WSCNMS has been working to expand research, monitoring, and protection of the sanctuary’s 36 known shipwrecks over the past two years, and look forward to future projects documenting and preserving Wisconsin’s maritime heritage and submerged resources.

Bio: Caitlin Zant is the Research and Communications Specialist of NOAA’s Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Prior to this, Caitlin worked as a Maritime Archaeologist for the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Maritime Preservation and Archaeology Program for over 8 years, after attending graduate school for Maritime Studies at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. Caitlin has been involved numerous Great Lakes archaeological projects, public presentations, workshops, and outreach events, and has assisted in nominating over twenty-five Wisconsin shipwrecks to the National and State Register of Historic Places. Prior to becoming a maritime archaeologist, Caitlin studied History, Geography, and GIS at Carthage College, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Schedule

Brendon Baillod & Bob Jaeck

Discovery and Documentation of the Schooner Trinidad – A Case Study in Managing Shipwreck Finds

Wisconsin Maritime Historians Brendon Baillod and Robert Jaeck located the remains of the schooner Trinidad off Algoma, Wisconsin on July 15, 2023 as the result of a deliberate search. The vessel, which lay in 270 ft of water was in exceptional condition, with her deckhouse intact, containing all the artifacts of daily life from her loss in 1881. Join Baillod and Jaeck as they tell the story of this ship’s interesting and important career in Great Lakes commerce of the 1860s and 70s as well as the dramatic story of her loss. Baillod and Jaeck will also tell the story of how the ship was documented with help from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Maritime Archeology program and how cutting edge technology was used to interpret the site to the public. Baillod and Jaeck will be giving virtual tours of the wreck using a 3D virtual reality headset throughout the Ghost Ships Festival.

Brendon Baillod

Brendon has been researching, documenting and telling the stories of Great Lakes ships for nearly 40 years. He has appeared on the National Geographic Channel, History Channel, Discovery Channel and Travel Channel discussing Great Lakes maritime history. He is the author of Fathoms Deep but not Forgotten, a compendium of over 400 Wisconsin ships and shipwrecks. Brendon is the current president of the Wisconsin Underwater Archeology Association and has the largest private collection of antiquarian Great Lakes books, maps, photos and ephemera in existence. He is the creator of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Research Group on social media and sits on the Advisory Council for the new Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

Bob Jaeck

Bob Jaeck has been diving Great Lakes shipwrecks for nearly 50 years and is an avid researcher and author. Bob is a current director of the Wisconsin Underwater Archeology Association and has been led several fieldwork projects to identify and document historic shipwreck remains in Wisconsin waters. He has the most complete collection of original research materials concerning SE Wisconsin shipwrecks and has searched for and documented historic vessel remains in the Racine area since the 1970s. Bob and Brendon were two of the original founders of Milwaukee's Ghost Ships Festival and have been shipwreck hunting partners for nearly 30 years.

Exhibit Tables

Ghost Ships Festival Tables of Exploration.


Main Event Registration Booth Hotel Lobby and Main Hallway

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Main Event Registration Booth

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Manitowoc Tourism

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3

Wisconsin Maritime Museum

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4

Association for Great Lakes Maritime History

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5

Wisconsin Marine Historical Society

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6

Lee Murdock

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Board Room / VR Cave

7

Wisconsin Underwater Archeology Association VR / Technology Table

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8

Wisconsin Historical Society

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9

Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary

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10

Great Lakes Shipwreck Preservation Society

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Dining Room / Main Exhibit Hall

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Inspired Planet Productions – Yvonne and Zach

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12

Keith Cormican – Search and Recovery Consulting

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Tracy Click – Below the Grade Scuba; Great Lakes Shipwreck Festival

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14

DESCO

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15

Kimm Stabelfeldt: Great Lakes Maritime Archeology

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Jerry Guyer – Pirates Cove

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Greg Such

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Dan Johnson – Lockwood Scuba

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Dan Johnson – Loves Park Scuba

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Dan Friedhoff - MUPC

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Dan Friedhoff – MUPC

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Dan Friedhoff – Straits Preserve

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TBNMS

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UASC

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WUAA Merchandise

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Tony Strublic maritime artist

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Tickets

Ghost Ships Festival has a few ways to enter.

WUAA Store

Online Registration via the WUAA Store for $20

EventBrite

Online Registration via EventBrite for $20

Tickets

Tickets Sold at the Door for $25

Booth Registration

For $150, each booth holder gets a single 8 ft. table with power and two tickets. The exhibit hall will be locked after hours. Setup will begin at noon on Friday and the exhibit hall will open at 5PM on Friday. It will close at 9:30PM on Friday. It will reopen at 7AM on Saturday and will remain open until 6PM on Saturday.

Contact Brenden Bailod after purchasing the table from the WUAA Store. There are a limited number of tables, so act fast.

Sponsorship

If you would like to Sponsor the Ghost Ships Festival you can pick from the packages below.

Sponsors must provide artwork and text to me at Brenden Bailod before February 15th. Artwork should be .jpg format.

Quarter Plan

$50

  • Ad in the program brochure
  • Quarter Page
  • Logo and blurb on the Sponsors page for the calendar year until the next Ghost Ships

Full Plan

$200

  • Ad in the program brochure
  • Full Page
  • Logo and blurb on the Sponsors page for the calendar year until the next Ghost Ships