RICHLAND, Mich. — In the depths of Gull Lake, the past is very much anchored in the present.
The sandy lake floor is more like a library book, waiting to be read by scuba divers like Kevin and Amy Ailes.
The couple drives their boat like a time machine, letting sonar steer them to sunken bygones.
"It is a hobby of mine to use technology and historical records to find and photograph remnants of our past," said Kevin Ailes. "People have unfortunately been dumping things on the bottoms of lakes for a long time. But they are curious little time capsules we come across."
Scuba diving is the Ailes' portal between the past and the present.
They search for relics like The Searchlight, a steamboat listed as abandoned at the lake.
Old photographs show the large, double-decker vessel transporting people across Gull Lake in the early 1900s.
"Scuttling a craft, sinking the boat for disposal, is quite unpopular today but sadly was commonplace in the past," said Kevin Ailes. "I believe that several of the vessels remain waiting to be discovered in the lake."
What Kevin and Amy Ailes didn't expect to find at the bottom of the inland lake, was a 22-foot steel lifeboat.
"It's the exact same kind of lifeboat which is used on a salt-water vessel," said Kevin Ailes. "Looking at perhaps a hundred different styles of steel lifeboats, I determined it is of Welin Davit and Boat Company."
Welin Davit and Boat Company was the same company that made the lifeboats on the Titanic.
Train tracks and train wheels also rest about 25 feet deep in Gull Lake, just offshore of Ross Township Park.
According to Ailes, the tracks were derailed by the invention of the refrigerator.
"Where Baseline Road ends into the lake was a popular area for ice farming," said Kevin Ailes. "Laborers would saw the ice into 300 pound cakes, which were then hauled away on carts. To better distribute the weight and ease transportation, train tracks were temporarily laid over the ice."
The submerged boats and bygones tie a historical knot between then and now.
A not-so-forgotten past lurking beneath the surface of Gull Lake.
For more historical information and photographs from Gull Lake, visit the Kalamazoo Public Library or the Richland Community Center.
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