Tamara Thomsen and Mallory Dragt were thinking of taking a ride under Lake Mendota on a few underwater scooters, motorized gadgets that divers use to propel themselves through the water.
It was a beautiful Saturday morning in June, and the duo, who work at Diversions Scuba, wondered if they just saw a log sticking out from the bottom of the 9,781-acre lake or something extremely rare.
The find, on a slope in 27 feet of water near Shorewood Hills, proved to be as historic as it gets.
After some research, it turns out that Thomsen, who is also a maritime archaeologist for the Wisconsin Historical Society, was correct in judging that it was more than just a log: it was a dugout canoe. Weeks later, carbon-14 dating showed the 15-foot-long ship to be around 1,200 years old, the oldest intact boat ever found in Wisconsin waters.
On a brisk Tuesday, amid lapping waves and 50-degree water, the canoe was brought ashore by teams of divers who shared punches and hugs to cheers from neighborhood residents. from Spring Harbor who had gathered on the beach to witness the return of the canoe ashore.
“This is the first time this thing has come out of the water in 1,200 years. And maybe they left that same beach to go fishing, ”said James Skibo, archaeologist for the state of Wisconsin. “Not only has he been underwater; it’s underground. The reason it is so well preserved is that it has not been exposed to light. So that’s one of the reasons why we need to start preserving it. There are living organisms on it that eat away at it as we speak.