There is a saying in northwest Michigan’s dune country. The sand gives, and the sand takes away.
Over the years, the golden sands along the towering Sleeping Bear Dunes have buried farms, forests and settlements. Just as unpredictably, though, they can retreat and bring to light what they have buried — as happened, for instance, in the case of the Three Brothers.
A 160-foot wooden steamer, the Brothers ran aground in 1911 on a sandbar off the coast of South Manitou Island and vanished without a trace.
For nearly a century, boaters and beachcombers fished and swam right over the wreck without knowing it was there, until the current shifted the sand away in 1996 and uncovered the vessel — completely intact — in a mere 12 feet of water.
Since then it has become a magnet for scuba divers and snorkelers from all around the country.
Although the waters around Traverse City lack the coral reefs and Technicolor fish of the tropics, they are a popular diving destination because they are so rich in shipwrecks.
Most date back to the middle of the 19th century, when the region teemed with schooners, tugs, fishing smacks and steamships of all shapes and sizes, but some are as recent as the 1990s.