Little did the girl know that the unusual thing she saw under the water would turn out to be of great historical importance.
Haven't we all felt excited as we stumbled upon something from our past that we almost forgot? It may be something from our childhood or something of great sentimental value—the moment we find it after years thrills us. If something from a few years ago thrills us so much, imagine stumbling upon something from more than a century ago. That was the case for Tim Wollak and his daughter Henley who found a 152-year-old relic that marked a significant event from 1871. According to USA Today, the daughter thought she saw an octopus under the water while fishing with her dad on Lake Michigan but it was quite ancient.
Henley Wollak is from Peshtigo, Wisconsin and loves to go on fishing trips with her dad. She is always so keen on catching a big fish. During the summer of 2023, the little girl and her dad were on a boat sailing to her favorite island beach and that is when she spotted an unusual object under the water. Thanks to Tim's awareness about the lake being home to numerous undiscovered shipwrecks, he identified the strange object to be the hull of a ship. He found that it was cool to identify such a mysterious thing underwater and resorted to Facebook to unravel the mystery of the shipwreck. Little did he know that the magnitude of its historical significance would be so great.
Jordan Ciesielczyk-Gibson, a maritime archaeologist at Wisconsin Historical Society reached out to Tim on seeing his posts about the shipwreck. Last December, the historical society revealed that the shipwreck was around 152 years old and presumed to be the remains of a vessel built before the Civil War named George L. Newman. In 1871, one of the deadliest forest fires in U.S. history happened in Peshtigo and the blanket of smoke made it difficult for the ships to navigate even during broad daylight. The vessel that Henley found was sailing with a cargo of Lumber from Little Suamico and grounded on the southeast point of Green Island due to the smoke. "The smoke was so dense that the Green Island lighthouse keeper kept the light on during the day," read the organization's Facebook post. "Keeper Samuel Drew rescued the crew, who remained at the lighthouse for a week while they salvaged what they could from the wrecked vessel."
Wollak told the media channel, "I was blown away by it, especially being able to share it with Henley." Talking about their unforeseen discovery, the dad said, "She ultimately put us in that location because that’s where she wanted to swim." Tamara Thomsen, a maritime archaeologist at the Wisconsin Historical Society, told Fox 11 News that the place where the vessel was discovered wasn't mentioned in their database and added, "However, in the database, we have information on historical losses and this fits the loss location of the George L. Newman." She added that the vessel was built in 1855 which was "pretty old for Wisconsin shipwrecks." She further said, "To have it tied to the Peshtigo Fire, it makes it even more special." Among a few other shipwrecks, this was the only one identified by a little girl and her dad is so proud of it. Wollak looks forward to finding many other shipwrecks during fishing trips with his daughter.