Western Lake Erie
(Turn on BE POSITIVE-switch) The Wreck of the New Brunswick has several things going for it: it’s not the worst wreck I’ve ever seen, and… ok, it has only one thing going for it, and that was it. (And if you’re wondering which wreck on this site is worse, I’d have to say it’s the Morrison).
(Turn REALITY switch back on) When I heard this was a three masted barq I recalled that the Arabia (the best wreck in Tobermory) was of the same design, and I let my hopes get the better of me. The Arabia is in 110′ of water, much better protected from the ravages of wind, ice and storms, a luxury the New Brunswick in only 50 feet of water does not have.
The depth of the Arabia made it more difficult to salvage, and it was not found until far too late to be worth the effort - the same cannot be said for the poor New Brunswick which is now so flat even an expert (someone enrolled in a marine archeology PhD program), after having spent nearly two hours examining her, was uncertain which end was the bow (it made me feel much better that I didn’t have so much as a clue, myself).
There are a few deadeyes, something about four feet long that could be the front or the back (I’ll let you decide for yourself - I’m no help), various knees (if I’m mentioning that KNEES are one of the highlights, you know I’m stretching), some chain, and a hawse pipe.
Port Dover, Lake Erie
Barcelona, New York
If you’ve done the Boland you’ve done the Whelan, they’re that similar. Ok, the Whelan is 20′ deeper, and 30′ longer, but once you’re narc’d you’ll never notice the difference. They’re both entirely upside down, and unless you enter the inside you’ll be looking at a hull for the most part.
But there is a little more to it than that. Built originally as the Erwin L. Fisher in Toledo, Ohio, it was also known as the Porte De Caen, Bayersher or the Claremont and she had an interesting life. She sunk at least three times: once when her load shifted in shallow water, again when mined or torpedoed off the east coast while serving the war effort, and then finally in Lake Erie after being converted into a sand sucker.
The wreck now lies with the starboard side just enough out of the silt to get under comfortably, but there isn’t much to find. There are hatches towards the bow and stern which allow entry but fine silt means you’re either first to enter or you’re likely swimming in a blizzard (I opted for the blizzard-less dive experience this day). A prop, rudder, and what looks like a bow winch are the key items to see aside from a yawl boat which seems to have encountered some difficulty parallel parking and reversed into the bottom. This is a relatively new wreck, having been opened in only 2005, and much of the interior has yet to be explored. There is a very good chance the 15 crew lost with the ship are still inside so penetration should be done with extreme caution and respect, if at all.
Upright listing to port
Some wrecks are well documented, studied, and surveyed, with tall tales told about the loss - some true but the best ones not. Then there are wrecks like the (possibly) Washington Irving. When it sunk? No one really knows. What caused it? Hard to say. Riveting details like those make the theme song to Gilligan’s Island seem interesting. Maybe it just needs Jacques Cousteau to come along and solve the mystery? No, he’s dead. Maybe someone could use the submarine Hunley to explore the area? No, it sunk. Maybe the Titanic could…
At only 81′ long the wreck, believed to be the Washington Irving but no one is really certain, is tiny. The rapidly accumulating silt is rapidly claiming this beautiful little ship with her list to port entirely burying that side. Remarkably in tact, the bow is in quite good shape, both masts are still standing, and the starboard davit juts proudly off the back, with no sign of the yawl boat nearby which could mean the crew launched it, but none five crew (and one passenger) were ever found. There’s a story in there, maybe a book. How about a movie? Someone call James Cameron.
The Tug Smith will not go down (no pun intended) as one of the premiere wrecks of Lake Erie but it would definitely make the top as opposed to the bottom half of the list.
Her most striking feature is the wheelhouse which is in fantastic shape. Inside you will find the wheel and other structural items which make it worth penetrating (which in this case is basically just sticking your head in).
A unique item still onboard at the time of this writing (and hopefully for a LONG time afterwards) is the whistle which lies on a stack on the top of the wheelhouse.
Tug Smith is still in great shape, and there is plenty to see. The bow is perfectly intact, a ladder leads to the lower deck, her stern is unbroken, and she has more details to look at than most wrecks this size.
Being a little deeper than sport limits this wreck sees far less traffic than any of the shallower sites, and is well worth the effort.
Long Point, Port Dover
The Trade Wind is a fascinating wreck. Her three masts lie on her port side, there is a square rigging platform in the middle of the fore-deck, much of her cargo is still there, and those are just the first things you notice about her. Take a closer look and you will find the location in her starboard side where it is reported the ship Charles Napier tried to mate with her, tearing a sizeable gash and sending the Trade Wind to the bottom otherwise unscathed but with the Napier’s bow sprit still penetrating her side (see top left photo).
Towards the rear is an amazing recessed wheel. Normally placed above deck, this one sits in a hole which must have afforded an awful view of things for docking etc. but was an escape from foul weather. One theory is that it allowed for the boom to be lower and sails to be larger - think "more horsepower". The forward decking is littered with what remains of 200 tons of steel railway line, and some of the 1,000 stoves she was carrying are visible in the hold.
Her stern, in pristine condition, is inspirational. Very squarish and quite large, the stern sits high enough out of the mud that you can see the considerable rudder.
It is possible to swim through an entrance at the front of the aft deck and exit at the wheel, but like many wrecks in Lake Erie this one is well filled with fine particulate so penetration would likely lead to greatly reduced visibility and everyone else visiting the wreck likely won’t appreciate the silt storm.
This wreck lies on the outside of the Point when dived from Port Dover, so prepare for a long ride out (up to three hours depending on the charter boat).
Long Point, Lake Erie
This is the kind of wreck that makes even hardcore divers say, "Hubba hubba". It is my new favourite and one I can’t wait to get back to.
Let’s get right to the best part of this wreck: there is a yawl boat (lifeboat) lying up against the port side near the stern, just an arm span away from the wheel. The rarity of that is why this was originally called the "Yawl Boat Wreck". It later went by the name "10 Volt" as well (due to electrical problems on the boat at the time it was found).
Broken almost in half, there is a large amount of debris scattered in the middle of this ship with plenty to see, including an anchor at the bow, one mast standing, and another lying along the deck. The wheel is still attached to the exposed steering gear about as close to the stern as you can get.
Experts believe that because the yawl boat must still have been fastened to the ship at the time of sinking, this wreck sunk in a hurry - perhaps due to a collision.
The St. James is pristine.
When people say something as moronic as "You could float her and sail her away," they are talking about ships like the St. James. True, there is a certain amount of manure involved in the statement, but it is a description reserved for wrecks in the finest of condition.
There is eerily no damage to the St. James. There is not a board out of place on any visible part of the hull. Her two masts still stand (what a rarity!!!), her bow is exquisitely intact with the figurehead and draping chains, and even parts of the crows nest are still there.
Her wheel gives an idea of the amount of silt on the bottom of this lake. It is largely submerged in silt, several feet of it, in fact.
There are remnants of rigging, deadeyes, fishing nets around the crows nest, and machinery on the foredeck. At the front of the boat just below the bowsprit is the figurehead which is ornately carved in the shape of a ram’s head and looks fantastic. It is relatively free of the quagga mussels which cover most of the wreck because divers want to see this signature piece. It’s cleaning was also featured on a particularly memorable episode of Oceans of Mystery that if you get a chance to catch it on TV, do, and be prepared to laugh. They dive to 160′ on what looks like single-80’s, and one diver loses a fin and when he is back on the boat says "If that had happened in salt water I would be dead."
After years of searching the St. James, previously known as "Schooner X", was identified in 1998 thanks to Dan Lindsay finding the tonnage numbers.
It is with great sadness that I must add to this page that the aft mast of the St. James has finally fallen (as spring 2003).
Once the second largest freighter on Lake Erie in her time, the Persian is now one of the biggest on the bottom of it.
Having sunk because of a fire has destroyed much of the upper portion of this ship, the years since she first hit the bottom have taken their toll so this is a very disorienting wreck.
The engine, boiler, much of the hull, and various items of machinery can still be found (without all that pesky decking getting in the way).
We dived this site at close to noon but on the bottom it looked more like midnight.
This wreck suffers from a severe case of multiple personalities.
It goes by the names Tiller Wreck, Oxford, and Crows Nest (despite the fact that technically there is no crows nest but rather a cross-tree on the forward mast - see bottom-left photo).
This site does not lack neat stuff to look at. There is some scrollwork on what looks to have been the top of the cutwater (top-right photo), the tiller used for steering the ship, the sizeable rudder lying on the bottom, anchors, windlass, bilge pump, holds, rail and more.
It would take awhile to see all of this wreck in detail despite the fact it is a mere 114′ long.
(Unpublishable at charter captain’s request)
List to port
It is truly a special experience to dive on a wreck you know VERY few people have ever been on. Potentially only ONE.
The cloak-and-dagger veil of silence surrounding this particular site made it especially interesting. The charter captain had made arrangements with the diver who had discovered the wreck and they appear to be the only ones who know the location - which I cannot reveal. Trips may start being run to it once it has been properly cataloged.
Because it appears to be old, small (58′), and in a serious state of decomposition it is estimated to be from the 1800’s, and some similarities to the famous Hamilton and Scourge wrecks (mostly length) were pointed out, perhaps making this a vessel from the war of 1812 as well.
To the best available knowledge this wreck has not been stripped, but due to its list to port and the amount of silt its secrets may not be revealed until a major excavation is undertaken.
We had a number of scooters on the wreck blowing off the silt but even they did not unearth anything of significance beyond… more silt.
For more info on this site contact the amazing Captain Jim at Osprey Dive Charters.