Underwater Scooter Ride Leads to Discovery of 1,200-Year-Old Canoe

A maritime archaeologist operating the scooter probably helped matters

The recovery team pulling a 1,200-year-old canoe out of Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin
The recovery team pulling the 1,200-year-old canoe out of Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin.
Photo: Dean Witter/Wisconsin Historical Society

It’s not hard to see the appeal of an underwater scooter. Zipping around in the drink and getting a sense of life at the bottom of a lake, river or ocean sounds both fascinating and fun. And, as it turns out, traveling via underwater scooter can also have some side benefits, such as helping to discover a canoe that’s been submerged for over a thousand years.

Writing at The Guardian, Alexandra Villarreal has details on such a discovery, which took place in Wisconsin’s Lake Mendota. The process by which it was discovered was unexpected. Friends Tamara Thomsen and Mallory Dragt were scooting around underwater when they noticed something that looked like a log 27 feet below the surface. Thomsen was intrigued — and because she’s a maritime archaeologist at the Wisconsin Historical Society, she was in a position to investigate things further.

That investigation led to the recovery of the canoe, which is believed to be 1,200 years old. It was likely made by the People of the Big Water, ancestors of today’s Ho-Chunk Nation.

What’s next for the canoe? A long process of preservation. The Wisconsin Historical Society described the process in a post on Instagram, noting that the canoe has already been “placed into a custom-built storage vat containing water and a bio-deterrent to protect the canoe from physical deterioration,” but that the entire preservation will take about three years. That might seem like a long wait, but compared to how long the canoe was underwater, it’s more like the blink of an eye. History’s funny like that.

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