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A survivor and a shipwreck hunter on the historic sinking of the Daniel J. Morrell

Mar 5, 2015

The Daniel J. Morrell
Credit Wikimedia Commons / Wikimedia Commons

The 34th Great Lakes Shipwreck Festival will take place this Saturday at Washtenaw Community College.

Veteran shipwreck hunter David Trotter will be speaking at the event about the sinking of the Daniel J. Morrell in November 1966, and his discovery of the boat in 1979. He calls Trotter one of the state's major shipwrecks.

Dennis Hale was the only survivor of the Trotter's crew of 29, and he will also be speaking at the festival.

Hale estimates there were only eight minutes between the time the ship cracked and when he was submerged in water. He was left floating in wintry Lake Huron wearing only a life jacket, shorts and peacoat for 38 hours being picked up by the coast guard.

Hale says it can often be hard to talk about something that traumatic, and he continually questions why he was the only one to survive.

"When it first happened, I didn't want to be that guy. I didn't want to be the only survivor and I tried to hide the fact that I was," Hale says.

But now he says talking about it has become very cathartic. 

Trotter's discovery of the Morrell came in 1979, 13 years after it sank.

With early technology Trotter was able to locate the stern, and then the other half shortly after. Trotter says seeing the style of the break, along with Hale's memories, allowed them to learn what went wrong.

Trotter explains his love for diving to shipwrecks, saying it's like going back in time.

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