Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Historic find raised from Lake Mendota

Tamara Thomson and Mallory Dragt thought they would take a spin on some underwater scooters, motorized gadgets that scuba divers use to propel themselves through the water at the bottom of Lake Mendota.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning in June and the two working at the Division Scuba debated whether they had seen a log sticking out of the bottom of the 9,781 acre lake or something very rare.

This discovery on a slope in 27 feet of water near Shorewood Hills has turned out to be as historical as it is.



A 1,200-year-old dugout canoe was picked up from Lake Mendota on Tuesday by the Wisconsin Historical Society. The canoe was discovered during a recreational dive in June and is the oldest, intact boat ever sailed off Wisconsin waters. The canoe will undergo conservation efforts over the next two years before being displayed at the museum.


John Hart, State Journal


After a little investigation, it is revealed that Thomson, who is also a marine archaeologist for the Wisconsin Historical Society, was right in believing that it was more than just a log; It was a dugout canoe. A few weeks later, carbon-14 dating revealed that the 15-foot-long ship was an estimated 1,200 years old, making it the oldest intact boat ever found in Wisconsin waters.

On a brisk Tuesday, amid the waves and 50-degree water, the canoe was towed ashore by teams of divers who had gathered on the beach to applause and hugs from residents of the Spring Harbor Neighborhood. Canoe’s return to the shore.



dugout canoe

Bystanders watch as they use yellow floats to fetch dugout canoes at Spring Harbor Beach. The 1 mile journey took about two hours.


John Hart, State Journal


“It’s the first time it’s been out of the water in 1,200 years. And they probably moved off this beach to go fishing,” said James Skibo, Wisconsin state archaeologist. “Not only has it been under water; it has been under land. The reason it has been preserved so well is that it has not been exposed to light. So that is one of the reasons why we have to preserve it. Have to start doing it. There are living creatures on it. What we are chewing on while we speak.”

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