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The Anniversary of the Portland Wreck

Today marks the 146 year anniversary of the Portland wrecking on the rocky shores of Bell Bay in 1877. “It was heading up towards Presque Isle, and it got into a storm, and it ended up getting washed up onto the beach at False Presque Isle,” said Wayne Lusardi, State Maritime Archeologist for the Michigan DNR. “Unfortunately it was damaged beyond repair, so it was abandoned. All the cargo has since deteriorated, but as of now the Portland is in very shallow water

The schooner sank just 100 yards from the beach and luckily no lives were lost. While the wreck itself isn’t haunted, there are rumors of its landing area, Bell Bay, having ghosts. The Portland is one of many ships to sink during spooky season. “A vast majority of wrecks, of the 10,000 or so wrecks of the great lakes happen in October or November of various years,” said Lusardi. “And usually that’s a result of shipping companies trying to push the end of the season. They’re trying to get that last cargo in before winter. Shipped from wherever they’re going and they’re fighting the weather the whole time. And they know better, most of the time, but they try to push it, and they try to push it.”

Visitors can take a look into history themselves from the Besser Natural Area. “You can swim to it from shore. We usually have a mooring buoy on it so that you can see exactly where it is. Remember not to take anything, only pictures,” said Lusardi. “It’s something that is beautifully accessible for snorkelers, paddle boarders, a lot of people fly drones over the top of it, so you can see it that way, or you can dive it too, it’s a shallow dive so it’s great for novice or beginner divers. It’s one of more popular shipwrecks, certainly, in this immediate area of Alpena and Presque Isle.”