Nothing compares to taking a swim close to Green Island in Lake Michigan for 5-year-old Henley Wollak. Her love for that location made her and her dad, Tim, part of history on a recent fishing trip. Her father recalled that numerous ships had been lost to the lake over the ages after she had seen what she believed to be an octopus.
When Wollak looked more closely, he saw that the grey lines beneath the surface resembled a ship's hull. Following that, he posted some photos of the sites on social media, eventually making their way to the Wisconsin Historical Society. It has now been revealed that they have discovered something extremely significant—a long-lost shipwreck dating back 150 years.
"I thought it was cool to see something like that when we first saw it in the boat," Wollak said to USA Today. "I had no idea how big of a deal it was at the time."
Based on a Video Ray ROV investigation, scientists surmise that the enigmatic shipwreck is the George L. Newman, a ship built in 1855 that sank in October 1871. The George L. Newman measured more than forty yards in length and nine yards in width, according to historical records.
The deadliest forest fire in American history, the Peshtigo Fire, is also connected to the ship. The George L. Newman ship was carrying lumber from Little Suamico, Wisconsin, and was sailing blind through dense smoke. Even though lighthouse keeper Samuel Drew kept the light on during the day due to the extremely low visibility, the disaster was still unavoidable. The crew, having salvaged what they could, spent a week at the lighthouse after Drew was able to save them. With time, the vessel accumulated sand and was forgotten for several years.
Because of the compromises made by a young girl and her father for an outing, this piece of history has now been found and remembered. They came to an agreement whereby Wollak would take Henley to her preferred swimming spot in exchange for driving their motorboat "real slow" to find fish. Little Henley wanted to swim and her father wanted to go fishing. “She ultimately put us in that location because that’s where she wanted to swim,” Wollak admits.
Even though the doting father finds it amazing, he can't help but wonder what it will mean for his daughter. “She has such a love for the outdoors,” he says. “I think as she gets older the magnitude of this will sink in for her.”