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Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary anticipates coming research team

Photo Courtesy of the Ocean Exploration Trust

  With vaccinations on the rise, many businesses are beginning to re-open fully. Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s waters have been open throughout the pandemic, and now a significant research project is resuming.


The Thunder Bay sanctuary holds as many as 200 well-preserved shipwrecks thanks to the cold, fresh waters of Lake Huron. About half of those wrecks, while believed to lay on the lakebed, haven’t been located yet.

Soon, that should change.

Jeff Gray, the superintendent at the sanctuary, said a crew will explore the lakebed using an autonomous surface vehicle and sonar.

“Part of the way that we look to better understand the sanctuary is by mapping it,” Gray said. “Understanding the bottom, understanding the habitat and potentially locating new shipwrecks.”

The team is led by Robert Ballard, the researcher who discovered the wreck of the Titanic.

Stephanie Gandulla, the sanctuary’s research coordinator, said the mapping project won’t only help by discovering more wrecks.

“Geologists are interested in what the bottom looks like,” Gandulla said. “Biologists and ecologists are interested in habitats for fish and other critters. So that’s what’s really cool about it, is it’s becoming more and more efficient to map once for many purposes.”

The mapping expedition, originally undertaken in 2019, will resume June 6.