Giant crucifix at the bottom of Lake Michigan? For the first time in two years, the winter viewing will be held in Petoskey to see the unusual memorial through the ice.
Nearly every year crowds pour onto the ice of Little Traverse Bay of the shore of Petoskey to get a glimpse of the large white marble crucifix lying at the bottom of Lake Michigan. The 11-foot Italian sculpture serves as a memorial for divers who have lost their lives in the frigid waters, but that is not what it was intended for.
In 1956, a 15-year-old boy named Gerald Schipinski died in a farming accident in Rapson. His family commissioned the sculpture, but it was badly damaged during its voyage across the Atlantic. The family refused it, and it spent the winter behind the church. A local dive group purchased the crucifix from an insurance sale the following spring for $50.
Petoskey crucifix on display before it was sent to the bottom of Lake Michigan
Following the death of a local diver, the group agreed to dedicate the cross to deceased divers. It was lowered 65 feet to the bottom of Little Traverse Bay in a dedication ceremony held on Aug. 12, 1962. During the dive, the right arm of Jesus fractured and vanished. After several years the crucifix became buried.
The underwater crucifix being raised for repairs in 1985
It was raised for repairs in 1985, the missing arm returned from the desk of a photographer in Detroit who was on the original dive team. When it was completed, the sculpture was resubmerged in a new location in 22 feet of water where it could be seen through the ice under the right conditions. The first winter viewing was organized by Little Traverse Bay Dive Club president Denny Jessick the following year in 1986.
An average of 1,150 people turn out for the viewing each year. Jessick is hoping for 2,000 this time around.
The Italian marble crucifix missing both arms of Jesus
This Saturday, March 7th, weather permitting, will be the first time the viewing will be held since 2012. A tent will cover a portal carved into the ice with a viewing box where the crucified form of Jesus can be seen haunting the cold depths.
For updated info on the winter viewing go to the Petoskey Visitor Bureau website.