1,200-year-old dugout canoe hauled up from Lake Mendota | Local News


Tamara Thomsen and Mallory Dragt were thinking of taking a ride under Lake Mendota on a few underwater scooters, motorized gadgets that divers use to propel themselves through the water.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning in June, and the duo, who work at Diversions Scuba, wondered if they just saw a log sticking out from the bottom of the 9,781-acre lake or something extremely rare.

The find, on a slope in 27 feet of water near Shorewood Hills, proved to be as historic as it gets.

A 1,200-year-old canoe was recovered from Lake Mendota on Tuesday by the Wisconsin Historical Society. The canoe was discovered in June during a recreational dive and is the oldest intact boat ever to be recovered from Wisconsin waters. The canoe will undergo preservation efforts over the next two years before it can be displayed in a museum.


After some research, it turns out that Thomsen, who is also a maritime archaeologist for the Wisconsin Historical Society, was correct in judging that it was more than just a log: it was a dugout canoe. Weeks later, carbon-14 dating showed the 15-foot-long ship to be around 1,200 years old, the oldest intact boat ever found in Wisconsin waters.

On a brisk Tuesday, amid lapping waves and 50-degree water, the canoe was brought ashore by teams of divers who shared punches and hugs to cheers from neighborhood residents. from Spring Harbor who had gathered on the beach to witness the return of the canoe ashore.


Passers-by observe the yellow floats used to bring a dugout canoe to Spring Harbor Beach. The one-kilometer journey took almost two hours.


“This is the first time this thing has been out of the water in 1,200 years. And maybe they left that same beach to go fishing,” said James Skibo, Wisconsin state archaeologist. . “Not only has it been underwater, it has been underground. The reason it’s so well preserved is that it hasn’t been exposed to light. reasons why we need to start preserving it. There are living organisms on it chewing on it as we speak. “

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