A Wisconsin father who accidentally discovered a 152-year-old shipwreck says when he first spotted it on his FishFinder, he assumed it was nothing special, and just kept on fishing.
Tim Wollak, a 36-year-old salesman from Peshtigo, Wisconsin, told Business Insider he made the discovery while out fishing in about 8 to 10 feet of water with his 5-year-old daughter near Green Bay’s Green Island one afternoon in August.
Wollak noticed something unusual on his FishFinder sonar device, so he swung his boat around to get a better look at it.
Wollak’s daughter Henley, who loves The Little Mermaid, thought the object on the screen of the device was an octopus.
But Wollak immediately noticed wooden panels which looked like “a human ribcage” and assumed that it was a sunken ship.
“To be honest,” Wollak told BI, “When we saw it, I thought it was cool. We were near a popular area, so I assumed people would know about the .”
“. I sent some pictures to friends and asked if anyone knew. “We looked at it and then we drove off and went to look for fish somewhere else. We didn’t really think a whole ton of it.”
It wasn’t until several months later that Wollak learned the significance of his discovery.
Wollak posted about his find on a local Facebook page called Forgotten Wisconsin a few months later, writing that he believed it was the wreck of a ship called the Erie L. Hackley.
He said that within one hour after posting his message, someone reached out to reach him from the Wisconsin Historical Society.
Based on the location, they told him that it was unlikely to be the Hackley.
Instead, Wollak said, they thought it was likely the 1871 wreck of a barkentine ship called the George L. Newman, which was thought to have sunk in that area but had never been recorded.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources collected video footage of the wreck in early October; however, the identification of the wreck is not yet confirmed the Wisconsin Historical Society posted on Facebook . The historical society states that the three-masted George L. Newman sail ship was constructed in 1855, and measures 122.
On the night of October 8, 1871, the ship was carrying a load of lumber when thick smoke from the Great Peshtigo Fire — the deadliest wildfire in US history — made it run aground on the southeastern point of Green Island, the society wrote.
The ship’s crew were rescued, and they spent the following week salvaging the wreckage, which had over the years become partly covered in sand, and was mostly forgotten.
Discovering a lost wreck is pretty cool, Wollak said, but it’s even more special that he did it with his daughter.
” “It’s the fact that I was able to do it together with Henley, and to have her share in it as well. It makes it even more special,” he said to BI.
And Henley is getting her fair share of the credit too, Wollak’s wife Brianna told BI.
“I did get a message from her kindergarten teacher saying that the class is really excited for Henley,” Brianna Wollak said.