Underwater Museum

Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area

By Nicole Eckert and Liam Giffin


How do you interpret over 10,000 square kilometres of water? The heritage presentation team at Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA) meets this challenge by taking visitors on a virtual tour beneath the waves, where they explore part of the lake’s human history with the help of an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV).

Underwater Museum, a new interpretive program developed in collaboration with Lisa Sonnenburg, Lake Superior NMCA’s Cultural Resource Management Advisor, provides a unique view into the stories hidden beneath the surface of the lake.

This program explores the shallows of the Nipigon Lagoon and stretches the visitor’s imagination out across the waters to discover artifacts hidden beneath the waves of Lake Superior. By exploring the underwater landscape, visitors learn first-hand how Parks Canada breathes life back into these sunken stories.

The program begins with a guided walk along Nipigon’s historic waterfront, where visitors are introduced to a rich history which has been obscured by time. This area has been a home to Indigenous peoples for millennia, a safe haven for fur traders, and the site of Nipigon’s historic fisheries and logging industry. Evidence of these historic events is hard to find on shore; but on the riverbed, clues to their presence are preserved, hidden away in Lake Superior’s Underwater Museum.

Exploring this underwater timeline requires a special guide. It’s time to bring in Dora, our underwater ROV! We pilot Dora through the murky waters of the lagoon, which once was part of the Nipigon River. There, we explore the remains of a sunken wooden fishing boat, resembling a Collingwood Skiff resting in ghostly light. Through connected devices, visitors see in real time what Dora is seeing. Visitors are then presented with historical information, maps and photos, and encouraged to help solve the mystery of the boat’s arrival and eventual demise in the Nipigon lagoon.

This process of exploration, research, and deduction in the lagoon introduces visitors to practices used by Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology experts. Returning to Lake Superior for their third field season in 2022, the Underwater Archaeology team has been documenting shipwrecks and other underwater cultural resources in Lake Superior based on local knowledge, sonar, and divers.

Much of Superior’s history remains inaccessible, but through the unique lens of underwater archaeology and new technologies like Dora, Lake Superior NMCA’s historians and storytellers are provided with new tales and new ways to tell them.

Collaboration between Parks Canada’s cultural resource specialists and our heritage presentation team showcases the research and exploration work so often unseen by the visiting public. This work is the backbone of Parks Canada’s mission to document and commemorate Canadian stories and landscapes. Through programs like Underwater Museum, we can share this specialized knowledge with audiences from around the world.

Program dates and times for Summer 2022 are now available, so please join us, as we keep searching the lagoon to add stories to our Underwater Museum.


Back to shoreLINES

Date modified :