A decaying Phoenix chimney was found at the bottom of Lake Michigan
Written by Linky Voltman
WINTERSWIJK – An evening walk in the old cemetery in Winterswijk by Joske Meerdink, editor at Radio Gelderland, was the reason for a documentary and podcast series “The Catastrophe with the Phoenix” by broadcaster Gelderland, which was presented on Sunday, November 20 at the Skopein Theater Service.
November 21 marks the 175th anniversary of the sinking of the Phoenix on Lake Michigan in the United States. This was the time when many Dutch immigrated to the United States due to poverty in the Netherlands. This also applies to the 300 passengers on board the Phoenix, including 154 Dutch immigrants. Shortly before her final destination, the port of Sheboygan, the ship caught fire and was wrecked. Only 24 immigrants survived the disaster, including ten people from Winterswijk.
Joske: “During my walk I saw the Memorial to the Fall of the Phoenix in the cemetery, I read the story and it really pulled me in. My first thought was, Why don’t I know about this? At home I looked up all the information about the disaster and immediately the idea of turning it into a podcast came up. When I was working on it, I reached out to film and documentarian Denny van Hooften from Zaltbommel.” Adds Denny: “Joske had done so much research beforehand, I thought this was such a beautiful story that I wanted to make a documentary about it. At the end of July we left for America with photographer Martin Schlickens from Radio Gelderland to get as many answers to our questions as possible. Such as: maybe the Joske family was on the boat, was the wreck found and why did so many Dutch immigrate to America at that time?
Via YouTube, Josky reached out to shipwreck hunter Steve Ravadon, who had actually seen the object lying at the bottom of the lake near the site of the disaster eight years earlier but described it as a tree stump. “During our stay he went looking for it again and found the place: the thing was still there. Then, the divers were deployed and it turned out that the object was hollow and that it was indeed the Phoenix smokestack. It is the only vestige of the ship.”
Denny: “During our visit to America, we also spoke with the descendants of people who survived the disaster, including Mark and Janice Hesselink, and the sisters Foster and Dave Feldkamp. We also spoke with Mary Rizzio, a Phoenix expert, genealogist, and historian. In 1997, she confirmed that all were named victims of the Phoenix disaster and with Kevin Cullen, an employee of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, who was overwhelmed by the discovery of the chimney.”
The first part of the documentary can be seen on Omroep Gelderland on Tuesday 22nd November at 5.15pm and will repeat every hour. The second part will be broadcast on Tuesday, November 29.
The first episode of the podcast was on Monday, November 21, followed by a new episode every week, which can be heard on the Gelderland podcast app, but also on other podcast apps.
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