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The Christmas Tree Ship
by Cris Kohl and Joan Forsberg
Since late 2020, this popular book is also available as an AudioBook from Amazon and other outlets

From the web site:

Reviewed in the United States on January 23, 2018

A legend of the great lakes, the famous Christmas tree ship, the Rouse Simmons sank in Lake Michigan in 1912. I first heard of this ship when I moved to Kewaunee and my sons checked out a nice “Christmas Tree Ship” children’s book at Christmas. I thought it would be a happy Christmas story, but as I read the end of the book to the boys I was crying. You mean Captain Santa does not make it back to his wife and three daughters? Cue the tears.

The Christmas Tree Ship adult book gives great historical detail about Christmas trees, the use of Christmas tree ships, Captain Herman Schuenemann, the Rouse Simmons, the sinking of the ship, and its rediscovery in the 1970’s. It also discusses the current Christmas tree ships that keep up the tradition in Chicago.

I was interested to learn in this book that Christmas tree ships were kind of a nostalgic tradition even in 1912. Instead of just buying a Christmas tree at a lot or on a sidewalk, it was a family tradition to go down to the Chicago River and select a tree from a schooner, which had become a rare sight on Lake Michigan at this time.

Another interesting tidbit I learned was that Captain Schuenemann’s business model was to buy old schooners on their last legs and try to stay at least one trip away from their sinking. In fact, his brother met his end when his Christmas tree ship sank on the way to Chicago. Captain Schuenemann may have hauled lumber all year, but it was the Christmas tree ship that made the most profit and made it, so they could clear the year with profit.

Captain Schuenemann had become known as Captain Santa and tried to outrun a storm with his load of Christmas trees from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on his way to Chicago. Unfortunately, the storm caught him and he lost control of his overloaded ship. It was last seen flying a distress flag going by Kewaunee (where I live). The Kewaunee Rescue station called the Two Rivers Rescue station as they had a motor boat (Kewaunee did not) and they risked their lives to help the Rouse Simmons, but never found the ship in their search. It was not seen again until a diver found in the 1970’s. Captain Schuenemann’s wife and daughters kept up the tradition for twenty years after his passing, which is extraordinary.

I really liked reading the details in this book, I learned a lot more about Christmas trees, Christmas ships, and the Rouse Simmons. I found it fascinating. I thought the layout of the book was very informative and I LOVED all the pictures that were included. My husband and kids loved looking at this book as well.

Favorite Quotes:

“There are few Great Lakes shipwrecks that have attained “legend” status. The Griffon, the first shipwreck on the upper Great Lakes, is the most searched for vessel, and the Edmund Fitzgerald, the most famous modern shipwreck and the subject of a popular song, is known worldwide. Helped by “Captain Santa” the Rouse Simmons was such a source of joy and celebration that her loss affected thousands of people, and the story, even 100 years later, continues to move us.”

“For about 40 years, between the end of the financial crisis of 1873 and the beginning of World War I in 1914, Christmas Tree Ships flourished as a traditional and welcome source of holiday trees for urbanites in prairie ports.”

“But the Great Lakes have one very unique advantage: they contain the best-preserved shipwrecks in the world!”

Overall, The Christmas Tree Ship is a very informative book about the sinking of the famous ship but it also gives great details about Christmas trees, ships on the Great Lakes, etc. I highly recommend it!

Book Source: I purchased an autograph copy from The Peninsula Bookman in Fish Creek, Wisconsin.

Shipwreck Tales of the Great Lakes
by Cris Kohl

Shipwreck Tales of the Great Lakes by Cris Kohl was one of those books I saw on my recent trip around Lake Michigan that I had to pick up!

The book is packed with stories about shipwrecks, how they happen, and what we know about the ships now.

As someone who grew up away from the Great Lakes, I guess I really never realized that some shipwrecks have been brought up, and restored to usable condition (and some have been sunk and restored more than once!).  I didn't know that some shipwreck sites have been found, and then that site is lost.  I didn't know that the Griffon may or may not have been found.

Also, I like Cris Kohl's writing style.  I read another book recently about shipwrecks in the Great Lakes that was difficult.  A book about shipwrecks can get technical quick.  Cris wrote this book in a way that even people with little to no knowledge of the lakes and ships can understand.

Kohl is careful to give the reader a clear, "here is what we know now" ending.  I really like knowing what became of the shipwrecks, the wreck sites, etc.  Cris even goes to Oklahoma to investigate a ship's captain who was thought to be dead!  Great fiction writers couldn't make this stuff up!

Cris Kohl did a lot of homework on this book.  I have read some other books about events and areas where I feel like the author slopped the book together over a weekend after reading a few other similar books.  This is not the case with Kohl.  As an underwater photographer and researcher, he has put MANY gorgeous color photos he took himself at the wreck sites in the book.  Old newspaper articles are included along with old postcards.  Cris uses a lot of vintage resources from his own collection, AND he has obviously done decades worth of research on his own.


Posted by jimerado on

The Great Lakes Diving Guide
by Cris Kohl

The Great Lakes have some fantastic diving, and Cris Kohl would know. He's been diving here for most of his life. His passion for shipwrecks and the stories behind them have inspired him to write The Great Lakes Diving Guide.... I don't think anybody who would be coming to dive the Great Lakes could go wrong having this [book] as part of their dive kit."

          -- Richie Kohler, co-subject of the bestselling book, Shadow Divers, co-host of the "Deep Sea Detectives" series on the History Channel, and co-producer of Dive Portal DVD Magazine; taken from his interview with Cris Kohl on Dive Portal DVD Magazine, Issue 2, November, 2006.

The Great Lakes Diving excellent! And I am sure that I will be referring to it many times in the future. It is indeed a 'clearinghouse' for Great Lakes wrecks and other info. I like the way it's set up as an easy reference guide....

          -- Ellsworth Boyd, "Wreck Facts" columnist

"...terrific book! -- wow! -- you sure did your homework!"

          -- Chuck and Jeri Feltner, Great Lakes Authors/Divers/Shipwreck Hunters/Historians

...Advice and observations from Kohl are sprinkled throughout the narration, taking this book beyond mere facts and figures by adding a welcome personal touch....

          -- Roger LeLievre, Great Lakes Magazine

I'm impressed with the quality of your work.

          -- Ken Merryman, Great Lakes Shipwreck Preservation Society/Diver/Shipwreck Hunter


Though it may not be well-known, America's Great Lakes boast a maritime heritage as strong as that of either coast. Even fewer people may know that these mighty inland seas also are home to the world's best-preserved shipwrecks.

The often epic tales of the l;akes' 5,000-plus shipwrecks -- from 19th-century schooners to 20th-century freighters like the Edmund Fitzgerald -- remain a vivid part of the fabric of local life. They are also treasured by a thriving, enthusiastic Midwestern dive community.

Although recreational divers cannot dive on the Fitz, the Great Lakes are littered with diveable wrecks and other interesting sites. Author, diver, and past Sport Diver contributor Cris Kohl highlights more than 900 of these in The Great Lakes Diving Guide, the first extensive guidebook ever created for the unique region....

          -- Sport Diver Magazine

Thanks for conducting all the work in compiling and organizing the information [in The Great Lakes Diving Guide.]

          Bob Sterner, Editor, Northeast Diving Magazine

Wow! Your book looks fabulous! ...[It] looks like an unimaginable amount of effort went into it.

          -- Susan Long-Holland, Vice President, DUI (Diving Unlimited International, Inc. San Diego, CA)


...generously illustrated.... Kohl believes the Great Lakes offer some of the most challenging and interesting diving in the world and sets out to prove it once again with this detailed and interesting guide. If you are a certified scuba diver who would like to discover new adventures in Great Lakes maritime history..., this book will open up a new underwater frontier.

          -- Nancy Schneider, Editor, Inland Seas, the Great Lakes Historical Society journal


I have to say congratulations. I am impressed with the book. It is absolutely awesome!

          -- Peter Schneider, Scuba Diver, Switzerland


Keep writing those great books.

          -- Bernie Chowdhury, author of The Last Dive, co-publisher, Immersed Magazine

...Cris Kohl has always been known for his award winning photography and this book will not let you down!... The Great Lakes Diving Guide, 2nd Edition, is the definitive choice for divers, boat captains, history buffs and anyone that wants to know more about America's Great Lakes maritime heritage and rich history....

          -- Wreck Diving Magazine

An impressive work.

          -- The Chicago Tribune

The Great Lakes Connections
by Cris Kohl

Reads like a fast-paced suspense novel.

          -- The Herald News, Joliet, Illinois

...your new TITANIC book -- a great work!

          -- Chuck and Jeri Feltner, Great Lakes Maritime Historians/Divers/Authors/Shipwreck Hunters

A good read...filled with information on TITANIC victims and survivors that may catch readers by surprise.

          -- The South Bend (Indiana) Tribune

I really do like your book...unusual scope and depth.

          -- Jim Clary, Great Lakes Maritime Artist

...Woodcuts, portraits, clips from old newspapers, historic photos, maps and drawings give readers a glimpse of how the events were presented in their day, but it's Kohl's warm prose that brings them alive. This book reflects the attention to detail of explorer Cris Kohl and his passion for documenting the history at the bottom of the world's largest freshwater lake system.

          -- IMMERSED Magazine

What a tremendous research resulting in a most compelling read. Congratulations!

          -- Blake Mann, Great Lakes Maritime Historian

...fascinating.... It is the people stories that propel the book.

          -- The Muskegon (Michigan) Chronicle

Excellent book.... Nice treatment of Samuel Ward Stanton and new (to me) information on Francis Millet. Good work!

          -- William Fox, Maritime Historian, Williams-burg, Virginia

I find [TITANIC, The Great Lakes Connections] especially well written, and it contains information that I cannot imagine how you were able to find.... My most pleased with your book because you have gone into the personal lives of many of the victims.... I was a merchant seaman from January 1945, until into 1948, and was Radio Officer on the ships. The stories of the wireless operations are especially interesting to me....

          -- John Schroff, Royal Oak, Michigan, nephew to three of the TITANIC victims who were bound for Pontiac, Michigan


          -- The Windsor (Ontario) Star

...a whale of a lot of research! Glad it was you and not me. You did a really nice job on the book.

          -- Ralph Roberts, Great Lakes Maritime Historian

It is a compelling, well-written book...[which] sets an excellent example of what tremendous and arduous research can this book, but don't pass it on to anyone else until you have finished it.

          -- Wreck Checker (the newsletter of the Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago, reviewed by Elizabeth Jurkacek)

...magnificently illustrated...a must for anyone interested in the TITANIC.... This is a book I think  you will enjoy.

          -- The Mining Journal (Marquette, Michigan)

The author gleaned fascinating tidbits.... Kohl compiled hundreds of photos, cartoon commentaries, ,and background facts to give the reader a you-were-there feeling.

          -- The Akron (Ohio) Beacon-Journal

Fascinating, well-written and packed with exhaustive research.

          -- The Saginaw (Michigan) News

Just when I thought I would never find a new book about the Titanic that would enthrall me like the first book I read on her sinking, A Night to Remember, I was sent this book to review. First published 20 years ago, it somehow escaped my attention.... Using first-hand accounts found in newspapers, the author tells a series of poignant stories concerning the [345] Great Lakes region passengers, both those who survived and those who were lost....  The maritime reform that was generated by [contemporary] editorial writings and political cartoons [included in this book] not only impacted North American shipping but also Great Lakes shipping. There's a wonderful chapter concerning the installation of wireless equipment on board Great Lakes ships. In 1910, Titanic's wireless operator, John Phillips, worked as a wireless operator on the Great Lakes. The book contains two fascinating sidebar stories: the strange connection between Titanic and the Great Lakes freighter Col. James M. Schoonmaker, and the similarity between [Great Lakes author] Morgan Robertson's 1896 fictional story concerning the sinking of the passenger ship Titan and the sinking of Titanic.

This book is a must read for anyone interested in Titanic or Great Lakes shipping. Nicely written, it's an excellent combination of social, political, economic and maritime history.

          -- Charles H. Bogart in PowerShips, The Magazine of Engine-Powered Vessels from the Steamship Historical Society of America, No. 313, Spring, 2020

The Wreck of the GRIFFON
The Greatest Mystery of the Great Lakes
by Cris Kohl and Joan Forsberg

 ...your terrific manuscript on the GRIFFON. You both did a wonderful job on your research and especially your writing, which was very professional....

          -- Clive Cussler, Author

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