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Evolution of the Great Lakes Self-Unloaders

By William Lafferty and Valerie van Heest

A Must-Read for Boatnerds and Shipwreck Enthusiasts

On a warm summer afternoon in 1927 off South Haven, Michigan, an old barge began taking on water. Helpless to staunch the flow and realizing their vessel would inevitably sink, the crew escaped to the accompanying tug, and watched as their ship plunged beneath Lake Michigan. Its loss unlamented, its career unheralded, it slumbered on the sandy bottom in the same obscurity that had shrouded its earlier work days as a steam freighter sailing the Great Lakes. However, the vessel’s anonymity ended in 2006 when Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates located the sunken wreck of the Hennepin. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the world’s first self-unloading vessel.
Buckets and Belts: Evolution of the Great Lakes Self-Unloader traces more than a century of innovative technological advancements in the conveying of bulk cargos from the Hennepin’s conversion to a self-unloader in 1902 to today’s mammoth thousand-foot long lakers.

Enhanced with the most comprehensive collection of self-unloader images ever published and dozens of underwater photographs, the book also explores the lives of the people who designed these vessels, the crewmen who sailed them and the self-unloaders that tragically went to the bottom, often taking entire crews with them.

Published through a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council and a supplemental grant from the Association for Great Lakes Maritime

History ISBN:978-0-9801750-0-4 | 8×10 Format | 320 Pages |275 photographs |$24.95 Free U.S. Shipping

Winner of a 2009 Michigan State History Award from the Historical Society of Michigan

Valerie van Heest is a principal in Lafferty van Heest and Associates Exhibit Design Firm, director of Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates (MSRA), and a member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame, who has explored, documented and interpreted shipwrecks for over twenty years. She is a recipient of multiple awards for the collection, preservation and promotion of state and local history through her interpretation, writing, filmmaking, and exhibit work. She has written several books and magazine articles and written and directed more than a dozen documentary films.. Her work has been featured in numerous books and articles as well. She is a regular presenter at museums, libraries, and film festivals, sharing the dramatic stories of ships (and an airplane) gone missing on the Great Lakes and has appeared on television news networks as well as on the History, Discovery, and Travel Channels. Valerie spearheads MSRA’s search for ships lost off western Michigan, which has resulted in the discovery of many new shipwrecks.

Contact the author at www.ValerieVanHeest.com or at shipwrecked@chartermi.net

2017 Recipient of Joyce S. Hayward Award for Historic Interpretation from Association for Great Lakes Maritime History
2008 State History Award for the book Icebound: The Adventures of Young George Sheldon and the SS Michigan
2009 State History Award for the book, co-written with William Lafferty, Buckets and Belts: Evolution of the Great Lakes Self-Unloader
2009 State History Award for the Exhibit “From Hennepin to the Thousand Footers” at the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center
2006 Induction into Women Divers Hall of Fame
2007 State History Award for the volunteer contributions to the Preservation of Michigan’s submerged maritime heritage

William Lafferty is an award-winning author, twice winner of the Broadcast Education Association’s History Award, and winner of the Association of Great Lakes Maritime History Barkhausen Award, who is both a filmmaker and a maritime historian. He was born in Oak Park, Illinois, and grew up in the western ‘burbs of Chicago. He spent his summers in Ludington, Michigan where his interest in Lake Michigan’s maritime history began at the age of ten. Over the years, he has developed an extensive collection of material and photographs and has become the preeminent expert in the history of self-unloading vessels. His chapter entitled “The Rise of the Self-Unloaders” in Victoria Brehm’s A Fully Accredited Ocean is a precursor to Buckets and Belts: Evolution of the Great Lakes Self-Unloader. Lafferty holds a BS, MA from Purdue University, and a PhD from Northwestern University. He is Associate Professor at Wright State University in Ohio, where he has taught since 1981.

Contact the author at william.lafferty@wright.edu

2016 Historian of the Year by the Marine Historical Society of Detroit
2009  Barkhausen Award from the Association of Great Lakes Maritime History
2009 State History Award for Buckets and Belts: Evolution of the Great Lakes Self-Unloader
2009 State History Award for the exhibit “From Hennepin to the Thousand Footers” at the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center