Pride of Michigan boat

Program Featured in State of the Great Lakes Annual Report, 2004

by Luke Clyburn

The future welfare of the Great Lakes will be in the hands of future leaders – our youth of today.

In 2002, we established the Noble Odyssey Foundation (a non-profit 501c3 organization) to enhance an already successful maritime training program for future leaders. For over twenty-five years hundreds of young boys and girls in our Great Lakes Division of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps have carried out seagoing missions in support of Great Lakes research projects.

Congress created the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps in 1963 to develop a maritime interest in American youth. When we formed the Great Lakes Division of Sea Cadets in 1973 we believed that the best way to develop this maritime interest was to actually take young people to sea, and have them perform real-world missions. In 1977, the dream became a reality with our acquisition of a 75-foot Navy Yard Patrol boat. We named this boat the Noble Od-yssey, and the whole Great Lakes became our training ground.

From the beginning we wanted to involve the cadets in professional projects where they could apply their training real – istically. We needed to develop project ideas that would be largely selffunding and also create real interest among our cadets, volunteers and donors. So, we began to support scientific research programs that required using the “Noble Odyssey” to transport equipment and researchers to Great Lakes sites. With adult supervision, the cadets manned the ship and provided hands-on help with research tasks in the field. This approach has been very successful. The following are some examples of our research projects to date.

From 1980 to 1989, we supported research projects on island ecology in the Great Lakes. It involved researchers from several academic institutions. For seven summers we transported a botanist and a herpetologist and their as – sociates to several islands. With cadet help, the botanist gathered and preserved rare and endangered species of Michigan flora. As cadets worked closely with the botanist, they learned about the scientific value of these studies. They also worked with the herpetologist to collect island garter snakes for comparative DNA studies. They later learned what these studies revealed about genetic links between island and mainland snake populations in ancient times during lower lake levels.

In 1982, the Noble Odyssey was used as a platform for filming an underwater shipwreck on the north shore of Isle Royal in Lake Superior. We produced a documentary film “Angels of the Sea,” which told about the sinking of the steamship, Emperor. The performance of our divers and cadet crew under difficult conditions was outstanding. The film was aired on the Public Broadcasting Service around the Great Lakes region, and the growing capabilities of our operation became better known. 34 A diver investigates an underwater ridge of limeston.

In 1989 we replaced the Noble Odyssey with a similar but newer ship, the Pride of Michigan. It is a slightly larger vessel, which has allowed us to expand the scope of our training and research programs.

For many years our cadet SCUBA team has worked with scientists from Oakland University on the collection of zebra mussel data from Lake St Clair. Cadet divers have collected native clams from the lake bottom that researchers used to determine the ecological effects of zebra mussels. Zebra mussel larvae were also sampled at various sites while transiting Lakes Huron and Michigan. The results aided in studies of the migration of this invader. Along the way the cadets also made many dives on shipwrecks to collect data on the spread of zebra mussels. This and other work resulted in a documentary film, “Fresh Water Invaders.”

During the 1990s our research projects continued to involve underwater research. We investigated an ancient drowned forest some 40 feet under water, two miles off Lexington, Michigan. For more than ten years scientists and our cadet divers have studied this site. They have set up search grids, located and documented logs and rooted tree stumps on the bottom, and collected research samples. Within this grid, 13 rooted stumps were found, well preserved. Carbon dating established that all of the wood samples were over 7,000 years old, and proved that Lake Huron water levels were much lower at that time. Another documentary film was prepared: “Drowned Forests of Lake Huron.”

Finally, in 2004, the Noble Odyssey Foundation, with funding from Michigan’s Coastal Management Division, Cranbrook Institute of Science, and Inter-Seas Exploration, began an underwater geological and archeological survey across the mouth of Grand Traverse Bay. On the adjacent shore, near the village of Norwood, are ancient chert mines where Native Americans made tools and left evidence of their work dating to some 10,000 years ago. Teams of cadets aboard the Pride of Michigan made more than 300 dives, exploring an underwater ridge of limestone for possible quarry sites formerly above water. Weather- 35 eroded stones were found on the bottom proving that the area was above water levels in earlier times. We also found an ancient drowned river channel cutting through this land bridge; a location where Native fishing camps may have existed during the low water period. This is an area that begs for future research. A film “The Norwood Project” was produced, documenting this expedition. It will be used to help develop public interest in Great Lakes science and history.

Each year with our ship and crew of Sea Cadets and volunteer professionals, we undertake some kind of research project on the Great Lakes. Every year new discoveries are made, creating many new questions about science and history under the waves. Working directly with scientists has greatly stimulated the cadets’ interest in developing their own careers in science, technology, and maritime professions. Just as important, they have developed responsible habits and leadership skills that are exceptional among their peers. Over the years many of our former cadets have moved on to leadership positions in science, industry, and politics around the Great Lakes Region. The benefits of their unique experience as Sea Cadets will remain with them all their lives.

Luke Clyburn is Lieutenant Commander of the Great Lakes Division, U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, and Captain of the vessels “Noble Odyssey” and “Pride of Michigan.”

Share the Post: