Kingston, Lake Ontario
What’s 120 feet long and sinks? Considering the site you’re reading this on, you can likely guess the answer to that. In this case it is a “new” and as of yet unidentified wreck near Picton, Ontario. Because it has not been dived for long, and was "discovered" around the same time as a wreck only a mile away that looks to be of a newer design, this one has been nicknamed the "old" one (at least for the time being). There are two groups with an archeological license to study this site so hopefully it won’t be nameless for long.
With a bluff bow, two cat’ed anchors, windlass, anchor chains, complete railing all the way around the ship, davits for a yawl boat over the transom, numerous deadeyes, masts fallen but nearby, this is one awfully nice wreck. There are also the precariously eroded remains of a wheel which looks about as fragile as a wheel can get.
A keen-eyed observer will also notice there is an odd structure on the bow, just below where the bowsprit would be. It looks like the kind of assembly that would be found underneath an ornate figurehead, which could very well have fit into the notch at the end.
It’s a Pavlovian reflex: when I hear the words, “Do you wanna dive some new, deep wrecks?” I salivate. Ok, so it’s more like a slobber (no one ever said diving with me was pretty). Naturally, “new” is a relative term. The wrecks were supposedly found in approximately 2003 and naturally with divers being divers, they kept the locations secret. Over time word started to get out, and then all hell broke loose when the Canadian Navy’s search for the Avro Arrow models made the locations “official” and a few people started coming out of the woodwork saying, “Yeah, we’ve been diving those wrecks for awhile.” Perhaps they can tell us where all the artifacts appear to have gone… but I digress.
Little work has been done so far on their identification but at least two groups are currently working on/towards studying the wrecks. No one has christened them with a nickname that has stuck or is common knowledge, so they are going by “new” and “old”, with the new one also getting called the “two masted”, but only because it still has two masts standing.
That’s likely a good place to start. The “new” wreck gets that name because it appears to be of a newer style design with a more sleek and graceful bow, which sports a bowsprit which might just be the most complete in all of Lake Ontario (or all of the Great Lakes, or maybe even… the world, yes, it’s that nice). Combine that with the two masts, the aft mast having a considerable portion of the cross-tree, and you’ve got a great wreck. But it doesn’t stop there. Add in a couple of anchors, a sizeable windlass, bilge pump, centre board winch, cargo hatches (they usually blow off when a ship sinks), two remarkably intact yawl boat davits, mast hoops, and deadeyes galore, and you’ve got one helluva wreck.
The depth was 170’ to the silt, deep enough that not everyone can visit, but shallow enough to allow a nice long bottom time to study this great wreck in detail without racking up a ton of deco. More on the other newly found wreck in Picton can be found here.
Toronto harbour, Lake Ontario
In diving they teach you to plan how to deal with problems. A few years ago a problem on this site might have been… what happens if I surface and all my dive gear has dissolved? Being at the foot of a major metropolitan center (you can see details on the CN Tower and Skydome from here, they’re so close) you never know what kind of chemicals are making their way through these waters. That appears to be less of a problem today, and this was quite a good dive (and all gear that went down came back).
The Sligo started life as a three-masted barque (actually, it started as a bunch of trees, but let’s not go back QUITE that far) that was used as an ocean-going vessel before being converted into a "canaller" schooner barge.
During a storm that threatened her and her tug she took on water and either broke loose or was cut loose allowing the tug to make it to shore. The Sligo’s crew made it to shore in a lifeboat. (Rumour has it that when they reached shore they went to a pub to "warm up" and did not report their safety until the next morning, making people believe for awhile they were dead in the storm.)
This dive features 15′-40′ of visibility (at least the days we did it), and a slight current to help deal with the fine silt which is easily kicked up. The wooden-stock anchor is still inside the bow on the port side just beside the windlass. Twenty feet off the stern lies her signature piece: the wheel, with a short length of steering gear below it keeping it propped up off the bottom.
A boiler towards the bow of the wreck has a thin glass tube that looks like a water level-indicator which is a rarity, especially after nine decades on the bottom.
It can be hard to tell when you’ve found part of her cargo since the Sligo was carrying stone for a highway construction project (a predecessor of the QEW) when she sank.
Toronto Harbour, Lake Ontario
The "Dirty 30’s" touched just about every facet of life in North America, even managing to extend its reach into the realm of wreck diving. In the depression era people were so starved for entertainment they would pay to line up along the Toronto shoreline and watch as an old ship, well past its prime, was set ablaze with some dynamite and a few fireworks (not that people today would likely be any different). This is how the Lyman M. Davis met its fate as as part of Toronto’s centennial celebrations, and now rests not far from the current CNE grounds.
Since it was scuttled you can pretty much guess in advance of diving the site there will be no deck machinery, or masts, or much of anything to see, or so I thought. While the deck "furniture" is certainly gone, stripped for its value before sinking, there is still a surprising amount of the ship left. The deck is gone, but the same can be said of many ships which met a far less violent fate.
Much of the bow remains, with a sizeable portion the bowsprit caught in the rigging and laying along the port side at the bow. (see last photo at bottom of this page). The rudder, centreboard box, sternpost, and a good deal of the sides remain, well coated in zebra mussels as is just about everything in Lake Ontario these days. At present the site is not moored but the Toronto chapter of SOS is attempting to rectify that. The site was mentioned in an article by the Toronto Star (July 10, 2004) where it was described as a "black wreck in black water", a quote taken from an unidentified source, potentially from a time before the onslaught of infamous zebras. At least on the day we were there it certainly did not deserve that description - we enjoyed decent light penetration and roughly 60′ of visibility.
The name "Titanic" conjures up images of a large ship with two people perched just inside the bow trying to learn what it feels like to fly (thanks to James Cameron). This particular Titanic is also a large ship and you can "fly" more than just the bow as you swim weightless over all approximately 300′ of it.
The Titanic was one of the many vessels taken out to the shipwreck graveyard and scuttled decades ago when they were too old and tired to be used to carry cargo anymore. Two boilers and a massive prop are the highlights of the site which also features easy swim-throughs and plenty of structure to investigate. This wreck does not see as much diver traffic as many of the others in the Kingston area but in terms of being visit-worthy I’d place it in the upper half of the list.
Sarnor 227 feet
Hattie 126 feet
We were walking through the graveyard when suddenly… well no, that’s not quite right. We were actually swimming through the graveyard, and since we were diving we hope nothing ever happens suddenly (nothing good happens "suddenly" when diving). We were in one of the three shipwreck graveyards that were created during the years when Kingston was cleaning out their harbours and getting rid of all the eyesores which were polluting the area, some having originally sunk at their moorings after decades of hard toil on the Great Lakes.
As soon as a vessel fatigued to the point it was uninsurable, the writing was on the wall. If it could not be repaired/upgraded for a reasonable cost it would likely fall into disrepair, or parts of it into someone’s fireplace. Some, once stripped, were escorted out into the lake and scuttled, accidentally helping spawn one of the healthiest dive industries in the Lakes decades later.
The two wrecks, located in the same graveyard as the ones nicknamed "6" and "X", are connected by a line which makes it easy to swim from one to the other on the same dive. They are located approximately 100′ apart, the one believed to the Hattie Hutt is the smaller of the two with the more squarish ends, and the Sarnor is considerably larger and quite pointy at both bow and stern ("pointy" is a technical nautical term, or at least as close as I come to one). Both of these ships were destroyed by fire and are believed to have been involved in the Catariqui River harbour cleanup of 1937. Due to the fire damage they are not in the same amazing condition as other Kingston wrecks like the City of Sheboygan or Katie Eccles, but still make for an interesting dive.
Shore dives are popular with divers everywhere, and the Stacked Hulls are one of the best in the Kingston area. It’s roughly a 20 minute swim from shore just behind the marina, off a rocky little "beach".
On the way out to the wrecks you will follow a series of lengths of pipe which magically turn into a line on your way to a huge anchor - be sure to check out the reversed swastika on the left fluke of this anchor too large and new to be from any of the wrecks here (insert mystery theme music here). Just beyond there you’ll pass a lawn chair before starting the part of the swim to the wreck.
The wrecks themselves are one small boat on top of a much larger one, or two. There are some who believe there are actually three wrecks here: your mission is to dive the site and decide for yourself. The hulls themselves are not entirely spectacular but there’s enough structure to make for an interesting dive.
The wreck which is commonly called the Glendora, may or may not actually be the Glendora, but there is a wreck there, and it’s fun to dive, so let’s just all agree to nickname it the Glendora for now, shall we?
It’s easy to make a case for the possibility of this ship having been scuttled. It lacks most items of value which would normally be found of a ship that sunk of natural causes, and it is in one of the three "graveyards" in the Kingston area. The outside of this wreck is… fairly dull. There isn’t much on it, of interest, in part because it is so in tact. There is a prop, and rudder, and some debris at the bow, but most who come to the Glendora are interested in going inside. There’s a good deal of room inside, and it’s possible to swim almost its entire length, which is good on days there is a current on the outside (it never gets all that strong).
Inside you will find… well, not much. There are a few fallen timbers to make your journey interesting to navigate, and there is enough silt to render the entire ship invisible with a single misplaced fin kick, but if you are careful as you swim towards the stern you will be rewarded with the sight of the ship’s stove if you travel along the starboard side, or if you chose the port tunnel, you will encounter a restriction which is smaller but still doable.
Mystery ship "X" is likely one of those wrecks that were scuttled quite some time ago during cleanup efforts to get rid of the rotting hulks that littered Kingston’s marina. Some had sunk at their moorings, others were just too old and tired to insure and sail anymore. Due to its condition and lack of machinery and equipment, "X" is definitely a good candidate to be one of them.
There are one and a half blades of the prop sticking out of the sand, a few deck supports, and a ton of stuff inside the bow. The vast majority of the hull appears to be intact, and I must admit to having enjoyed this dive.
Wrecks like this were deemed so unimportant at the time their locations appear to have gone unrecorded, and some of those who know where to find them have mysteriously chosen to remain silent (some of the virgin wrecks they know of, they claim to be "protecting" by not letting people know where they are, but this one was stripped bare before scuttling so I’m not sure what they feel they’re "protecting" on this one). It may take the cooperation of some of these people in order to determine the true identity of this wreck, one of several which have been (re)located and opened by staff at Northern Tech Diver of Kingston.
The Mapleglen makes for an interesting dive for several reasons. The twin boilers and sizeable prop are definitely "must see" items, but there’s also the ship’s history to take into account.
The Mapleglen was one of those aging hulks which had a decent-length career hauling whatever she was asked to, and then mothballed and forgotten. Not long after, she started to rot and became a menace at port. Eventually SOMETHING had to be done with it, and many wanted it broken apart and used for firewood, or dismantled and used for lumber - but burning was seen as easier. Instead, due to the number of ships that were in similar condition it was thought easier to just tow the lot of them out to deeper water and scuttle them. Let’s have a round of applause for for whoever came up with that idea!! It was such a great idea there are actually THREE ship graveyards around Kingston, which is part of the reason this area is so great for diving today.
The bow and stern areas have serious damage, and much of the mid-section has collapsed, but there is still plenty to see on this 25-’ long vessel. Take particular note of the sizeable chunk missing from one of the massive propeller blades.