Great Lakes Now Presents

Episode 1002: Ships and Shipwrecks

Come aboard a tugboat that has delivered mail to boats on the Great Lakes since 1874, learn about life on a Great Lakes freighter, and dive into some incredible shipwrecks in the Great Lakes’ only national marine sanctuary.

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Ask a Freighter Captain

Ever wondered what life on a ship is like? Great Lakes Now is collecting your questions to ask freighter captains, and we’ll try to get them answered.

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If you've ever wondered about the Great Lakes or life in the region, send our team your question. If we can answer it, we might loop it into our coverage so others can learn, too.

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Ships and Shipwrecks Episode 1002

In the second episode of the Great Lakes Now monthly show, come aboard a boat that delivers mail to ships on the Great Lakes. Learn about life on a Great Lakes freighter, and dive into some incredible shipwrecks that you don’t necessarily need a scuba tank to see in the Great Lakes’ only national marine sanctuary.


Watch Live on DPTV

Tuesday, May 28 at 7:30 PM


Detroit, Michigan

Buffalo, New York

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Marquette, Michigan

South Bend-Elkhart, Indiana

Toledo, Ohio


This Month on Great Lakes Now

Click the tabs to read descriptions of each feature in Episode 2.

You’ve Got Mail


Come aboard the tugboat that delivers to Great Lakes freighters

Since 1874, this family-owned company has made deliveries to commercial ships on the Detroit River. Great Lakes Now Host Ward Detwiler goes aboard the J.W. Westcott II while mail and crew get to today’s passing freighters.

Brian Heikkuri, a deckhand with the Westcott company, shares stories about his work.

“They’ll order from the pizza joint right down the street,” Heikkuri says. “We take it, put it into their delivery box and send it right up the side of the ship on a rope.

Read more about the J.W. Westcott >

Life Aboard a Freighter


Meet the captain and crew and learn what life is like on a Great Lakes ship

Board a vessel in the Welland Canal, the series of locks that allow ships to bypass Niagara Falls, and travel with the captain and crew into the stunning Thousand Islands region east of Lake Ontario.

In this segment from partner station WPBS-TV in New York, Great Lakes Now introduces the men who work on board.

“If you do a job that you love, you don’t feel like you’re working,” says Wilson Walters, captain of the CSL Welland.

Got a question for a Great Lakes freighter captain? Ask it HERE. >>

Watch the full WPBS documentary   HERE. >>

WPBS produced this segment in part with support from a Great Lakes Now Local Station Production Grant.

Read more about life aboard a freighter >

Wrecks Within Reach


The Great Lakes only national marine sanctuary brings underwater history up close

Whether you’re in a glass-bottomed boat, looking down from a kayak, or diving underwater, the shipwrecks at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary give you a haunting look at the past.

Start your visit at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, the sanctuary’s museum in Alpena, Michigan, and continue on the waters of Lake Huron to see the wrecks.

But it’s not just tourists who benefit from the work of the archaeologists and historians. Sanctuary staff help local students learn about the Great Lakes in a “Science and the Sanctuary” class that’s required at Alpena High School.

“It’s kind of changed a career course for me,” says freshman Jillian Pilarski. “I really enjoy science and never had an opportunity to learn about what I want to learn about. … This right now is really what I’m into.”

  • See similar sanctuaries on the Great Lakes or learn more about other potential national marine sanctuaries on the Great Lakes.

Have a question about the Great Lakes or life in the region?

Ask Great Lakes Now, and if we can answer it, we might loop it into our coverage so others can learn too.

Submit Your Question

Videos from the Episode

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Digital Credits

The Great Lakes Now Series is produced by Rob Green and Sandra Svoboda.

Digital Designer: Shelby Jouppi

Digital Video and Photography: Rob Green, Zosette Guir, Matt Ilas, Zachary Irving, Sandra Svoboda, Jim Toscano, Barry Walton, Jordan Wingrove and Courtesy of WPBS-TV, NOAA/Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Captain Neil Schultheiss, the J.W. Westcott Co., Andy Morrison, Canada Steamship Lines, Tom Weldon, Thousand Islands International Council.

Website Writing: Natasha Blakely, Rob Green, Sandra Svoboda