In early spring when the ice moves out the water is crystal clear even on the Green Bay side of the peninsula. This allows us to see some shipwrecks we can't later in the summer. One of these wrecks is the Hanover. The Hanover was a schooner originally built in 1853 and used as a bulk cargo ship that sailed through the Great Lakes. It was just over 100 feet long and was about 25 feet wide. In November of 1867 it was sailing up during a storm from Chicago to pick up lumber from Oconto, a small city on the other side of Green Bay. It ran aground just south of the Strawberry Islands on a small shoal that is sometimes visible when the water is low. The storm immediately began to break up the schooner and the captain ordered the crew to cut down the two masts and strip it of anything they could. The boat eventually settled in 27 feet of water.
After the Hanover sank a strange thing happened. They ended up naming a different shoal after the wreck and not the actual shoal that sank the Hanover. No one is really sure why this happened. Is it because they forgot where the Hanover sank? Did they think the two shoals were connected? Did they just give it that name because it is much larger than the rock pile that sank the Hanover? The Hanover was certainly forgotten about and it wasn't until 2014 that the shipwreck was documented by archaeologists and added to the National Register of Historic Places. If this is the reason why a different shoal received the name they must have forgotten rather quickly where the Hanover actually sank.
Though the water is cold in the spring it's still fun to free dive on this shipwreck when you can see it from the surface. I did a free dive on this wreck in 2015 and the entire bow section was visible but over the past few years sand, pebbles, and zebra muscle shells have started to cover the wreck. I've heard some years you can't even see the Hanover at all and as the lake levels lower and rise the wreck becomes covered and uncovered. The bow section was barely visible in 2019 but the stern and the rudder are completely clear of debris. In 2018 a sailboat stuck the same shoal that sank the Hanover. It didn't become a permanent shipwreck and was salvaged a few days later but I find it amazing that a shoal, or rock pile, that sank a boat over 150 years ago still manages to sink ships even today despite all of the modern navigation equipment mariners have at their disposal.
Captain Matt Olson
Born and raised in Door County, Matt always had an interest in local history, shipwrecks, and the natural wonders scattered around the peninsula. Now he has the opportunity to share his love of all things Door County with locals and visitors alike in the SHIP'S LOG.