NOAA team busy installing mooring buoys in sanctuary

News Photo by Darby Hinkley A NOAA team has been putting in mooring buoys in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary to mark the shipwrecks and provide a place for boats to attach to instead of anchoring and possibly harming the historic shipwrecks. Pictured from left to right are Diver Russ Green, Research Coordinator John Bright, Maritime Archaeologist/Diver Maddie Roth, Captain Randy Gilmer and Maritime Archaeologist/Diver Joe Hoyt.

ALPENA — Two maritime archaeologists from Washington, D.C. came to Alpena recently to help put in mooring buoys to mark the shipwrecks in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Maddie Roth and Joe Hoyt with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, better known as NOAA, were in town earlier this month to help with the feat of installing the 42 bulky buoys.

“Some of the larger ones are upwards of 60 or 70 pounds,” Roth noted. “And they’re bottom-heavy, and they swing around.”

Stephanie Gandulla, maritime archaeologist at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, was happy that Roth and Hoyt made the trip up to Northeast Michigan.

“They are from our NOAA headquarters in D.C.,” Gandulla said. “And they came all the way out here to help us deploy our buoys and to get some Thunder Bay diving in, because it’s the best.”

Roth explained that they came up because it’s important to help get the mooring buoys in to mark the shipwrecks before the big diving season begins.

“The purpose of the buoys is to provide direct access to the shipwreck sites by means of an independent mooring system,” said John Bright. “It has a weight on the bottom, next to a shipwreck, that doesn’t actually contact the shipwreck, and has lines that go to the surface into a buoy that marks that location, with a tagline coming off of it so that boats can attach to it.”

Each buoy bears the name of the shipwreck it marks to make it easy for boaters and divers to identify which wreck they are viewing.

“They can verify they’re at the shipwreck site they want to go to,” Bright said. “So, it provides that aid to navigation, and that independent mooring where visitors can go to the shipwreck site, and use that buoy without having to anchor their boat into the wreck or on the bottom near the wreck, which is something that may cause damage to those fragile historic materials.”

He said the system is well-maintained and checked to make sure it is in good condition each year and ready to be used.

“To do the kind of work we’re doing, safely and effectively, we need calmer conditions,” Bright added on a rather windy day on May 9 when they were headed up to Presque Isle.


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