Maritime Heritage Minnesota

More than 200 people were in attendance 8 p.m. March 12 for Tapping History to learn from Minnesota’s only two underwater archaeologists.

EXCELSIOR — The duo behind Maritime Heritage Minnesota, Ann Merriman and Christopher Olson, say they have found 30 more wrecks in Lake Minnetonka since 2014.

The evening of Monday, March 12 at Excelsior Brewing Co., Merriman and Olson returned to Tapping History, organized by the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society, to show photos of their research and answer questions.

In total, the archaeologists have found 66 wrecks that cross 1,000 years, they said in their Lake Minnetonka Nautical Archaeology 7 Project Report.

Along with wrecks, they have identified 27 objects without site numbers, which includes a Ford Model T. 

They conducted two sonar surveys of Lake Minnetonka — September-November 2011 and May-June 2012.

As the only two underwater archaeologists in the state, their meticulous work depends on grants, they said. Merriman and Olson frequently have to clarify what underwater archaeology is.

“Wrecks and the artifacts associated with them tell a story,” the report’s introduction says. “Removing or otherwise disturbing artifacts, treating them as commodities that can be sold, obliterates that story.”

When they believe a site warrants it, they dive and document research, often finding wrecks covered in zebra mussels or propped at strange angle (such as boats that sit horizontally on the bottom).

While they don’t have anything to do with removing artifacts from sites, they can return lost property, they said.

Once, they found a gym bag in a boat. They checked for a driver’s license and managed to locate the owner of the gym bag, a Wisconsin resident, roughly 20 years after he had lost it. He was thrilled to have his Twins baseball T-shirt back, they said.