Northwester Lake Huron
Whatever you do, don’t dive the Florida. This wreck will spoil you and other wrecks just won’t seem the same. It’s that good.
It’s tempting to leave the description at that and let the photos do the talking, but that would just be wrong (and the latest ones are out of focus anyway). This wreck reminds me of the Jack Nicholson line to Helen Hunt in the click flick "As Good As It Gets" and that line, "You make me wanna be a better man." This wreck makes me wanna be a better diver - I wish I could spend hours in the holds finding out what’s there.
I’ve only seen two wrecks so far that have a barrel still on them (Straubenzie and Bermuda), but this one has… a lot more than one. It would appear the hold was full of them, and while there are plenty of barrel parts lying all over the place and many have survived intact. How intact? Intact enough to be floating and pinned to the ceiling of the hold. At least some were reported to be carrying booze, and since they are still floating, and since alcohol is lighter than water, it suggests to me they might still be full (that’s how intact they are). Someone on the boat suggested that if you clean off some of the barrels they still say WHISKEY on them. Sounds like a bad place for an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
There’s a lot of damage to the stern (from impacting the bottom, it would appear) and one of the walls of one of the cabins is missing, and the masts are down, but that’s it for damage (aside from the massive gash in the side where it was struck by the steamer George W. Roby). The stern damage allows for an outstanding view of the engine and five brass gauges. There’s also a capstan cover that has been placed on the engine, complete with the name of the ship (the identity of this one didn’t stay a mystery for long). A quick list of other items of interest includes: two cabins (one with an axe still in its holder on the wall), prop, D-shaped crows nests, hand carts, flagpole with the ball still attached to the top, anchors through the bow, and a lantern.
Alpena, Lake Huron
If Shakespeare wrote about Great lakes wreck diving (although rumour has it he’s still a little dead) he’d write about wrecks like the Cornelia B. Windiate. Why? Because this is a masterpiece of a dive site. The wreck features everything that is great about diving in the Lakes: excellent visibility, amazingly preserved wooden structure, artifacts, and a surprise.
The surprise is… something you would likely never expect to see on a Great Lakes shipwreck, especially one that sunk in 1875: a yardarm. Sure, you’ve seen yardarms on ships before, lying on the deck, shattered on the lake bottom, or decaying in the ship’s hold, but have you ever seen one still IN PLACE on the mast? There are no words to describe what it is like to see the unseeable. Let’s put it this way: despite the fact I was in a drysuit I almost wet myself in a fit of utter diving glee, it’s THAT good, and THAT rare (or is it just that I have a weak bladder?). No, it really is THAT good.
If it had a ship’s bell and an in tact bowsprit I’m not sure what else it could have that would make it any closer to the perfect wreck dive. Unfortunately the photos do not do it justice. The deck is covered in stuff. The cabin is still in place. The forward mast is still standing, mast hoops surround the remains of all three masts, the centerboard winch is still in place, the yawl boat rests along the starboard side, and the anchors are still fastened to their catheads. And yes, the ship’s wheel is still there, albeit popped up and on an angle reportedly due to a someone trying to steal it by attaching a line and pulling with a boat.
Harbour Beach, Lake Huron
The Minnedosa was the largest Canadian sailing vessel ever built in Canada. There is a certain aura that you expect when you are diving one of "the" sites, you hope there will still be some of "the" mystique about it. And in this case, there is.
Although the Minnedosa was four masted she was never intended to work under sail. She came along towards the end of the era of the wooden ship and would be towed as a barge, and that is precisely what happened when she sunk. While one of two barges being towed behind a steamer she foundered in a particularly violent gale and went to the bottom.
Divers able to reach these depths will find a truly exceptional wreck. The stern (the only part I’ve visited) is quite in tact. The masts are down but the yardarms are still there, along with a few mast hoops, the yawlboat rests on the lake bottom just off the port rail aside the leading edge of the aft cabin which has collapsed and is askew. On top of the aft cabin is a nice skylight, a section of ladder, portholes, and a small torpedo-like device that was used for measuring boat speed. As of Sept. 2004 the wreck still had very few mussels on it, but did have a very fine layer of silt which could be easily disturbed.
Harbor Beach, Lake Huron
When you hear about a wreck for years and how good it’s supposed to be you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. The word on the Dunderburg was that it had a one of a kind figurhead under the bowsprit, and was suitably in tact to make it one of the most interesting wrecks in the Great Lakes. That’s a tall order, and one it does not disappoint on.
For a wreck that has no wheel, no standing masts. the rudder detached, and considerable stern damage, it’s still a gorgeous site.
The figurehead is… just weird. Theories abound as to what it is, with suggestions ranging the gambit from alligator to platypus. I was going to reserve judgment until I saw it for myself, and I can conclusively say I still don’t know what the heck it is. The mouth could be jaws or a bill, it has four little stumps for legs, and the tail blends into the underside of the bowsprit. This is the most famous part of the wreck due in no small part to the lack of definitive identification, and I’m certainly not gonna change that any.
Inside there’s little of what would pass for cargo (corn), leaving the massive gash in the starboard side where she was hit by the steamer Empire State as the most interesting feature. The masts are down, and the pulleys and crosstree are still nicely in tact on the forward mast which lies just off the port bow, and makes for an interesting photo with the wreck in the background thanks to amazing Lake Huron visibility. As of August 2004 the number of zebra mussels is still relatively small, with only the metal parts being covered, but that may not last long if what has happened in other lakes is anything to go by. Also of interest on the wreck are the fife rails, belay pins, mast hoops at the base of the snapped-off mast, and the two sizeable bow anchors.
Sanilac, Michigan, Lake Huron
The Regina is like many wrecks which lie upside down: kinda dull if you don’t go inside. With limited time on the site and it being our first visit, penetration was not in the cards, and so we settled for dull. There was little to see aside from the massive propeller, name along the back and side, and a quite large hull.
It’s not as interesting as the Boland in Lake Erie, or the Manola in Lake Ontario (both upside down), but it was worth a look, once.
On starboard side
The North Star was the sister ship to the North Wind which lies in the north channel, north of Tobermory in Lake Huron. While they may have been incredibly similar when they were afloat, they bear almost no resemblance to each other now. While the North Wind’s hull is in tact and upright, the North Star is on her starboard side and quite broken at the bow and stern, with what appear to be gaps between the pieces (they are actually attached along the bottom, but that is largely covered over with silt).
The large boilers, anchor, and single blade of the prop still sticking out of the bottom were highlights of the site. At nearly 300-feet long the wreck is large enough to have some areas with good visibility and others not, which should be taken into consideration if you are going to attempt to breech the gap to the stern or bow (reportedly called the LEAP OF FAITH by some of the local divers).
We made the rookie mistake of attempting to see the entire wreck in one dive. While we were able to swim the entire length (and back), this was not the right way to explore this site. It would likely have been much better to just do the bow or stern, and do the area more justice.
Current was slight, blowing across the wreck, but since it lies on its side only one side is worth seeing - on this day the current did not favour THAT side.
The North Star reportedly had quite a colourful life, colliding with several boats and shoals, before finally being sent to the bottom by her own sister ship, the Northern Queen, in a dense fog.
Near Killarney, Lake Huron
The Wilma Ann was a fishing tug at one point in its life, later serving as a means of delivering petroleum products to remote areas. It was scuttled in 1983 to attract divers to the area near Killarney, but due to a lack of other diving attractions in the area it attracts few divers.
The wheel, CO2 tanks, wheelhouse and pop machine inside are the main attractions.
North channel, Lake Huron
Some divers go a lifetime without ever getting to experience a wreck of the caliber of the Northwind. At six inches shy of 300′ long it takes awhile to get to see. And considering it’s depth of up to 120′, bottom time can be limited which makes it mandatory to do more than one dive here (you won’t wanna leave anyway).
What makes this such a great wreck? I hear you ask… well, I’ll tell ya. Think of all the things that COULD make it a great wreck, and they’re probably here. If it was shallow it would be in pieces by now, so depth is an asset. It’s hull should be entirely in tact. It’s anchors should be in place, along with deck machinery, and have artifacts like pots and cooking utensils. It should have a prop, portholes with glass, bow in pristine condition, anchor chains, and a variety of penetration potential. The Northwind has it all. For good measure it also has a wooden life buoy, smokestack you can swim through, ladders, doors, a red sign on the mast with ship details, and other stuff just as neat as they are weird.
Although this wreck lacks a ship’s wheel it has one of the rarest artifacts in all of the Great Lakes: a bathtub. Bathing in it is not recommended.
Despite having been on the bottom of Lake Huron since 1914 the wreck of the Emma Thompson was only located in 1992. Since that time it has seen relatively few divers compared to just about any other shallow water wreck (like those in Tobermory) and it shows.
This wreck burned and sank rapidly but it is still in rather good shape considering its age and lack of (protective) depth. The few divers who have been here have been kind enough to collect many of the smaller, more portable items and place them on a raised rail that seems to run along what I’m guessing is the center of the ship. Tongs, tools, pulleys, and items beyond the limits of my imagination can be found here.
The sizeable boiler is still remarkably in tact, as is the prominent bow with three anchor chains, one of which runs to a metal stocked anchor which is half buried in the soft clay. A small sign located on the inside of the starboard wall gives details about the ship.
This wreck is not the biggest, or the best, but it is certainly the most interesting wreck I’ve seen yet that lies in less than 30′ of water.
Presque Isle, North-Western Lake Huron
Ever gone to a movie you’ve never heard of and it turns out to win the Oscar for best picture that year? It’s a pleasant surprise, isn’t it? Welcome to the Typo, a small wreck only 6 miles from shore that no one seems to talk much about but is great to see. The Typo is on of those rare wrecks with a mast still standing. Most sites offer just a snapped off mast like her second one, just 20′ tall before it is broken off, but her fore-mast is nearly complete as is much of the bowsprit and hanging chains.
Now yer saying, "Ok, but that doesn’t make her so special," and you’re right, but how about the rarest of rare shipwreck artifacts still in tact and in place: the bell. Called the "heart" of the ship by some (just not me) a bell is usually the first thing destined for someone’s basement, or well-intentioned (cough) museum, but this one is still there for all to see, complete with a snug fitting suit of zebra mussels, of course.
Compared to the bell the other items which would be the highlight of most wrecks are rather mundane here, like the anchors, mast hoops, pulleys, and what looks like a crow’s nest platform on the snapped-off mast which is now lying on the deck. The Typo is an award winner for sure despite laying on the bottom of Lake Huron since 1899 courtesy of a collision with the W.P. Ketcham - must have been a critic.