J.D. Marshall Shipwreck: Preserving History Beneath the Waves of Lake Michigan

Staff report

CHESTERTON, Ind. – June 14, 2023

Nestled beneath the waves of Lake Michigan lies a testament to Indiana’s maritime heritage. The J.D. Marshall Shipwreck, Indiana’s first underwater nature preserve, stands as a symbolic guardian of the cultural values embodied by this historic vessel. Now, thanks to the meticulous efforts of Dr. Charles Beeker and his Indiana University (IU) students, in collaboration with the DNR Lake Michigan Coastal Program and Indiana Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology, the shipwreck’s site plan has received a much-needed update.

In 2013, the J.D. Marshall Shipwreck was officially designated as Indiana’s inaugural underwater nature preserve. Its preservation was essential to safeguard the legacy and historical significance of the vessel. The J.D. Marshall, once a lumber hooker during its time of service, now rests on the lakebed, providing a glimpse into the past.

Dr. Charles Beeker, along with his IU students, embarked on a project to develop an updated site plan. Their collaboration with the DNR Lake Michigan Coastal Program and Indiana Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology allowed for the integration of cutting-edge technology to enhance the accuracy and detail of the plan.

Utilizing the highly precise IU photogrammetric site model, the team analyzed the underwater environment, capturing every detail of the shipwreck and its surroundings. The result was a comprehensive site plan that would serve as a valuable resource for future research and preservation efforts.

During the process, a discovery was made. The shifting sediments that lay undisturbed for years revealed a hidden gem—a rope hoist toward the stern of the ship. This particular feature, unseen in the original 1987 site plan, provides insight into the vessel’s history and sheds light on its function as a lumber hooker.

To offer the public a unique glimpse into the J.D. Marshall Shipwreck and its recent updates, a virtual tour has been made available. The virtual tour allows viewers to explore the remains of the ship. Those interested in embarking on this virtual adventure can visit on.IN.gov/jdmarshall to begin their exploration of this underwater site.

Top photo: J.D. Marshall rope hoist. Bottom photo: J.D. Marshall site plan.

Photo of the JD Marshall

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