Sault Ste. Marie
The City of Sault Sainte Marie, founded by the French in 1668, is the oldest city in Michigan and the third oldest city in the United States. The word “Sault” is a French-Indian term for the rapids on the St. Marys River, where Lake Superior meets Lake Huron with a 21-foot drop in elevation. Native Americans have known this area for thousands of years; but Lake Superior was not seen by Europeans until the French explorer Étienne Brûlé came to the area in 1622, with a Huron Indian as his guide.
The world-famous Soo Locks continue to operate in downtown Sault Ste. Marie, witnessing passage of millions of tons of cargo laden in vessels from all over the globe. The most popular commodities shipped through the locks are iron ore (now pre-processed as taconite pellets), grain, coal, and cement.
The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society’s offices are located in the historic U.S. Weather Bureau Building, just 200 feet from the MacArthur Lock. This building was erected in 1899 to allow forecasters to hand-carry weather forecasts to upbound and downbound vessels. Study of the U.S. Weather Service reveals that it was originally created in response to an appalling loss of life in shipwrecks on the Great Lakes.
Beside housing administrative offices of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society, the Weather Bureau also offers public exhibits, a Shipwreck Coast Museum Store sales area, and paper archives of the Shipwreck Society. This building is open to the public weekdays from 10 am to 4 pm during the winter months. Archives are available for public viewing by appointment; please call 800-635-1742 for more information.