New technology reveals historic – and bizarre – remains submerged beneath Lake Mendota Wisconsin News

Madison (WKOW) – For thousands of years, Madison’s Yahara Lakes have provided resources, food and a home for the people who lived and lived nearby. And as time has passed, that history has been preserved beneath the surface of many lakes.

Thanks to modern 3D imaging technology, researchers and divers have been able to reveal to the public the history hidden beneath the lakes for the first time – and the images are stunning.

It all starts with diver and renowned lake explorer Rick Kruger. Krueger spends more than a third of his day at Lake Yahara, in search of history.







Rick Krueger spends more than a third of his day at Lake Yahara in search of history.


“You never know what you’re going to find out here,” Krueger said. “Out here, there’s just, there’s stuff everywhere.”

With special equipment, sonar and underwater cameras, Kruger has found more than 70 ships, cars and other structures beneath the lake’s surface.







A car that fell through the snow and is now sitting on the lake floor

A car that has fallen off the ice and is now sitting on the lake floor (Courtesy: Zach Whitrock)


“You start running the search pattern back and forth, back and forth,” Krueger said. “When you see something, you mark a waypoint, and then you go to see what it is and then just keep going.”

Kruger’s discoveries provide great destinations for divers and fellow explorers like underwater archaeologist Tamara Thomsen of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

She discovered a 1,200-year-old Ho-chunk dugout canoe last year. Some of his favorite places to explore include several cars, boats and other structures on the Lake Floor portion of the Picnic Point home, as well as an underwater reef near Maple Bluff known as “The Wall.”

We joined Thomsen and his team on a dive about 50 yards from the picnic point.

“There are some facilities that are down here,” Thomsen said. “There’s an underwater experiment station – a three-man dwelling, which has been abandoned.”

“Habitat,” as it is often referred to by fellow divers, was an underwater research module under Lake Mendota and commissioned by UW-Madison in the late 1970s. When it was still in use, the module could house three researchers conducting experiments and tests on the lake floor.







The

“Habitat,” as it is often referred to by fellow divers, was an underwater research module under Lake Mendota commissioned by UW-Madison in the late 1970s.


And this section of that lake is not hidden.

“There’s also a couple of cars down here, and then in deep water we have a small motorboat, which has been abandoned,” Thomsen said. “So it’s like a little underwater park here in Lake Mendota.”







Diver searching for an underwater car in Lake Mendota

Diver searching for an underwater car in Lake Mendota. (Courtesy: Zach Whitrock)


Between Thomsen and Krueger, the two have discovered hundreds of artifacts on the lake floor, which have been invisible to most people until now.

But that is changing.

That’s because Thomsen and his team of researchers are able to use new 3D imaging technology to scan some of the lake’s underwater features and bring them to life in a virtual reality space.

Zach Whitrock, who specializes in underwater modeling, has been able to bring dozens of structures on the lake floor to life.

“I used an underwater propulsion vehicle with a camera on the front,” Whiterock said. “I just go around the wreck at different angles and different heights and get a bunch of footage of it. And then the program will take all those individual shots, and create a 3D model of it.”

3D models allow online users to explore some of the hundreds of artifacts submerged beneath the surface. Models can be explored here in standard definition and virtual reality.

The models reveal many cars that slipped through the ice, sunken ships and other structures such as sailboats and housing before the roads were widened.







A 3D image of

3D technology brings structures like “habitats” to life.








3D modeling allows online users to explore hidden relics.

3D modeling allows online users to explore hidden relics.


A new way of preserving history also gives divers like Thomsen and Kruger an excuse to keep looking.

“There’s a lot of stuff that’s waiting to be found,” Krueger said. “I might go out every now and then, and find something that would be a really wonderful find. Or you might find nothing at all. So it’s all a mystery.”

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