Underwater archeologists raising money to hunt for history in Lake Minnetonka


History lurks at the bottom of one of Minnesota's most popular lakes – and Minnesota's only team of underwater archeologists is bent on documenting these unidentified relics.

Chris Olson and his wife Ann Merriman started the nonprofit Maritime Heritage Minnesota (MHM) in 2005, and six years later began their Lake Minnetonka Project – spending their summers underwater diving for history in the 14,000-acre, west-metro lake.

On Tuesday, Olson and Merriman began their third summer of diving to the lake's depths, the MHM's Facebook page says. (The first two summers were spent doing sonar surveys.)

They plan to investigate three wrecks and 22 anomalies – four of which they are confident are unidentified wrecks, MHM says.

During Tuesday's dive, MHM identified one wreck – a fiberglass utility (pictured above) – and checked out three anomalies that had showed up on their survey, the Facebook post notes.

One of those anomalies ended up being a large tree, the Star Tribune reports.

Funding needed

In order to keep their dives going, they're looking for private donations. Previous years of the project have been funded through state Legacy funds, but this year MHM's grant request was denied due to lack of available funds, according to their GiveMN fundraising page.

“The underwater sites on Lake Minnetonka have been ignored for too long," Merriman told the Star Tribune.

MHM hopes to raise up to $10,000 in donations to back their work. As of Tuesday, they had raised $4,300, the Star Tribune notes. Click here for information on how to donate.

What they've found

Lake Minnetonka was the first body of water in the state to be entirely surveyed via sonar for underwater archaeological resources, Lake Minnetonka Patch reported in 2012. And MHM is using what they found in the survey on their dives to identify wrecks and other anomalies – something that showed up on the sonar survey that could be anything from a historic wreck to something insignificant.

The duo and their volunteers dive down to investigate and document the wrecks and anomalies – only excavating them if the welfare of the artifact is paramount – and then pore over historic records to try and figure out what happened, the MHM website says.

Before MHM began its work, there were only six wrecks known in the lake, MHM's website says. It has since identified 36 wrecks and 10 other sites in Lake Minnetonka.

Among them: an ancient dugout canoe dating back 1,000 years; a rare model barge that sank in September 1879; and "Saucy Kate," which sank in September 1899.

The team has also found old cars dating back to 1936.

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