Shipwreck Event Revived and Moves North to Manitowoc

Researcher plans two projects off Door County

The winter fleet floating in Sturgeon Bay attracts attention, but any new discoveries and details about what lies beneath the surface generates attention in Door County as well.

Former Gills Rock-based dive-boat operator Jim “Captain Robbo” Robinson alerted the Peninsula Pulse to the March 1-2 revival of Ghost Ships Festival, noting that the Wisconsin Underwater Archeology Association is bringing it to Manitowoc. 

The gathering for people interested in the historic lost ships at the bottom of the lake had been based in Milwaukee and last took place in 2017.

Tickets for the two-day event at the Inn on Maritime Bay, next to the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, are available for $20 in advance at or can be purchased for $25 at the door. People under 18 will be admitted for free.

Activities March 1 start with a 7 pm presentation on a plane occupied by Tuskegee Airmen that crashed in Lake Huron and a performance by musician and storyteller Lee Murdock at 8 pm. The hourly, all-day Saturday events culminate with the announcement of a new find, but also include a 9 am-presentation on 3D Photogrammetry for Documentation of Shipwrecks, followed by two presentations on the preservation of underwater archeological sites, and a 2 pm presentation on the wreck of the schooner Trinidad, which was found intact in 300 feet of water near Algoma. Rotatable images are available at

Diver Zach Whitrock descends on the Trinidad, an intact schooner that will be discussed during one of two dozen sessions of the 2024 Ghost Ships Festival in Manitowoc on March 1 and 2. Photo by Tamara Thomsen.

This year’s festival will feature 3D tours of newly discovered Great Lakes shipwrecks using the latest virtual reality headset technology. 

Just a few of the 20 exhibitors include dive experts, Wisconsin Historical Society Maritime Archeology Program, Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary and Association for Great Lakes Maritime History.

Grants for 2 Door County Shipwreck Investigations

Door County has more than 240 shipwrecks, and the Wisconsin Historical Society’s (WHS) key archaeologist, Tamara Thomsen, who is also a diver, has participated in documentation and preservation of vessels of all sizes – from ancient dugout canoes to large schooners.

“It’s amazing what she and her team do,” said Robinson, who ran dive charters from 1994 through 2008, and lighthouse tours until he sold his boat to the Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands in 2022.

Thomsen is leading an investigation that began last year, and continues this year, of two wrecks in waters near the Door County peninsula. 

A $109,000 University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Program grant announced this month will help pay for underwater archaeological surveys of an unidentified and “pristine” steam launch discovered near Little Harbor, north of Sturgeon Bay, during a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration bathymetric survey; and the damaged Civil War-era schooner Jennibel, a site that’s popular with advanced divers and located near Chambers Island.

“We will conduct a Phase II archaeological survey to determine their eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places,” Thomsen said. Researchers document in place, do no excavation and will research complete service histories of the vessels. Data collected will be used for presentations, updates to museum kiosks, field reports, and print and web content, including updates at