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Ancient Rock Carvings, Sunken Ships Used To Lure Tourists

August 7, 1986

PORT AUSTIN, Mich. (AP) _ Officials are counting on mysterious underwater rock carvings and dozens of sunken ships to lure tourists to the tip of Michigan’s thumb.

The carvings, discovered in 1953 by Rosecommon County Sheriff Garth Meyer, and the 66 shipwrecks make up the 276-square mile Great Lakes Bottomland Preserve.

Divers this summer have tried to find the carvings, 1/2 -inch gouges in the side of a rock ledge to no avail, said Steve Romzek, Huron County parks superintendent.

″They haven’t found them yet again this summer, probably because of all the algae growth this year,″ Romzek said. ″But there are a lot of people trying.″

The ships are easier to locate.

The wreck most popular with divers is the Philadelphia, a 236-footer that went down in 126 feet of water when it collided with the 137-foot Albany on Nov. 7, 1893, Huron County Commissioner Ronald Knoblock said. The Albany rests nearby.

The largest boat is the 356-foot Glenorchy, which sank Oct. 29, 1924, and rests in 80 feet of water, Knoblock said.

Knoblock said he came up with the idea for the preserve a few years ago after learning that the 113-square-mile Alger Underwater Preserve in the Upper Peninsula’s Munising Bay had become a hot tourist attraction since opening in 1981.

The 14,000 people, including 6,000 divers, who visited the Alger preserve last year pumped $2.2 million into the local economy, said Jim Lempke, director of the Alger County Extension Service.

Several new dive shops have opened near Port Austin, Knoblock said.

Meyer was a trooper at the Bad Axe state police post in 1953 when he discovered the carvings 15 to 35 feet down on several dives between Point Aux Barques and the Port Austin lighthouse.

Some people have theorized that the carvings were done by inhabitants of the area 4,000 to 6,000 years ago.

″One looked like a human figure, like a primitive man, but with the arms cut off,″ Meyer said Thursday. ″Almost like a T-shirt.″

The 59-year-old sheriff said the other five or six carvings he saw in a 50- foot area looked like a watermelon slice, a tic-tac-toe game and a sea serpent.

The carvings, about a half-inch deep, were on the side of a rock formation that forms a ledge, Meyer said.

″It was a very strange configuration on the bottom (of the lake),″ he said. ″At first I thought they were gouges made by ice or maybe an anchor chafing in the rock.″