A mutual friend introduced McKeil to Robbins, and the two dreamed up a project based on their shared interest: a documentary about sunken steamships and an oral history effort to preserve stories of their glory days. With the help of many locals – including former steamboat workers and residents who remember the end of the lake vacation era – they recently completed Sunken Steamboats of Moosehead Lake , which they are currently submitting to film festivals.
“Steamboats are a symbol of a time when our region was prosperous and bustling with activity,” McKeil said. “The local population was almost double what it is today, and the families thrived by meeting the diverse needs of the hospitality and lumber industries.”
Today, there may not be 500-room resorts in the area, but tourism is still alive. Nowadays, people come to enjoy the simplicity of going to “camp” (local slang for settling in what others may know as a cabin, cabin or lake house). They check into one of the historic inns and maybe book a moose-spotting trip or a seaplane ride — or board the Kate for a cruise, like I did.
Hopefully they also find the chance to talk to locals, who can share stories of the area’s rich past, both above and below the water. “The Katahdin, as the last remaining steamer, reminds us of who we are as a community,” McKeil said. “It gives a sense of consistency and assurance that with perseverance, our region can return to prosperity.”
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