Cris Kohl and Joan Forsberg, well-known maritime historians, scuba divers, authors, lecturers, photographers, and videographers, are a Chicago-area husband-and-wife team who love to explore shipwrecks, particularly those in the Great Lakes. They both have underwater archaeology certifications from Great Britain’s Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS).

Joan has a degree in History and has been the Chairman of the Shipwrecks and our Maritime Heritage Room at Chicago’s Our World – Underwater Show since 1996. She is the author of the scuba celebrity cook-and-tell book, Diver’s Guide to the Kitchen, and articles in magazines such as Immersed, Great Lakes Boating, and Wreck Diving (for which she works as Copy Editor). Joan appears behind the camera shooting underwater video, and in front of the camera as Cris’ underwater model. In her three terms as President of the Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago (2008, 2009, 2010), she spearheaded several significant maritime history projects, particularly the sinking of the historic ship named the Buccaneer as the newest shipwreck site off Chicago. Joan was inducted into the international Women Divers Hall of Fame in 2010.In 2011 she was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Women Divers Hall of Fame and received the Underwater Archaeological Society Award for “many years of leadership and dedication”.

Cris, a prize-winning underwater photographer with a Master’s Degree in History, is originally from Windsor, Ontario, was on the Board of the Ontario Underwater Council for nine years, is a Past President of the Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago (2004), was the 2008 recipient of the annual Our World—Underwater Outstanding Achievement Award and has written twelve books and more than 325 magazine and newsletter articles about Great Lakes shipwrecks. He has appeared on numerous television programs, including on the History Channel several times and on the Discovery Channel. He has helped locate and identify many shipwrecks. His most recent book is the expanded Great Lakes Diving Guide, the most comprehensive book ever published about Great Lakes shipwrecks.

Co-authors of the recent book Shipwrecks at Death’s Door, co-editors of the 2010 book Our World—Underwater: The First 40 Years, and producers of several commercial DVDs about Great Lakes shipwrecks, Cris and Joan are currently working on more shipwreck book collaborations. Cris & Joan’s web site is Seawolf Communications.

“Shipwreck Tales of Chicago”

Chicago, the largest city on the Great Lakes, owes its existence to ships and sailors.

The city’s massive maritime history includes several hundred shipwrecks, such as the “David Dows” (the largest sailing vessel ever built on the Great Lakes), the ships destroyed during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the speakeasy ship named the “Rotarian” (scuttled off Chicago in 1931 during Prohibition), the Great Lakes’ two most tragic disasters (the steamers “Eastland” and “Lady Elgin”), the tragic loss of the most famous ship that brought Christmas trees to Chicago, the sinking of a World War One German U-boat in deep water off Chicago, the disastrous sinking off Chicago in 1927 of an excursion ship from which a future movie star helped recover bodies, and the three ships purposely sunk off Chicago in the past few years to create new scuba dive sites (the Holley barge, “The Straits of Mackinac,” and the most historic of the three, the “Buccaneer,” which had purposely sunk a Canadian ship in 1929 with much subsequent controversy), plus several others!

Recommended Articles