Dave Trotter is a great American in many ways

One of the great things about America — maybe the greatest thing — is the flexibility, within some kind of reason, to do what you want with a career and a professional path. I’m always surprised when I shoot the shit with people at bars and someone will be like, “Oh, I do home hospice care” (noble as all get out) or “Oh, I manage shipping for a brand of popsicles” (cool) or “I do finance work for a non-profit” or whatever. There’s a tremendous amount of variety out there about paths and callings. In fact, I used to have a podcast about just that topic; it died out when I started going to graduate school, but I’m considering doing a couple of podcasts on this blog down the road (just need to hear back from a couple of people).

In this way described above — freedom to pursue one’s passions — Dave Trotter is a great American. He is a shipwreck hunter, and at 72 years of age, he’s still going strong; this past July, he found the wreck of the Keystone State in Lake Huron. It had been lost for about 152 years. Trotter, who used to be a mid-level executive at Ford and is based out of Michigan, has been doing this for 35 years. In that time, he found the Daniel J. Morrell steamer boat (lost in the mid-1960s) and the Goliath, one of the first propeller-driven steamships. All in all, he has around 90-100 Great Lakes wreck discoveries. He’s involved with the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and Undersea Research Associates. He also has an Admiral Dave’s Shipwreck Arcade on Mackinac Island. He’s considered “a legend” of diving.

Referred to here as “the most prolific shipwreck hunter in the Great Lakes,” Trotter has also made documentaries around his work, including this one, Taking New York by Storm. (This isn’t the full documentary, but gives you some idea about the ship, called The New York.)

He’s also a regular speaker at the Shipwrecks Symposium (that’s a thing) and is, logically, a primary character in Shipwreck Hunter, a book about Great Lakes wreck exploration.

Back on the old podcast/blog, I interviewed a golf ball diver. I thought that was vaguely interesting, but Trotter’s work is moreso — he finds old ships, sometimes almost fully-preserved, at the bottom of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and then makes his regional tourism better in the process. Grabbing a golf ball from the bottom of a swamp / pond and grabbing at something that’s been missing for 152 years are tangibly pretty different things. If you were interested in the depths of the Great Lakes, here’s a jumping off point. Superior is the deepest, which makes sense; Lake Michigan is a little under 1,000 feet deep. Now, the deepest part of the ocean well exceeds 14,000 feet, so those working in deep-ocean salvage are diving a lot deeper. They’re also running out of cash, apparently.

Freedom is important for tons of reasons, but one of the most important is freedom to pursue your goals and passions. Dave Trotter is doing that — yes, he had his corporate job at Ford, but he’s spent the better part of the last few decades diving to the depths of the Great Lakes and discovering these boats, connecting us back to history in the process. It’s a bit surreal when compared to a standard blue-collar or desk job, but I love this guy already (and I just found out about him today).

Ted Bauer

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