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.
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.
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.
Lake Huron near Grand Bend
In her day the Wexford carried a variety of cargo including sugar, banana, rubber, citrus, tannin, tea, tung oil, manufactured goods, and wheat, but now it only carries water, silt and occasionally divers.
At 250′ long the Wexford was originally built for sailing the oceans but towards the end of her days called the Great Lakes home. She was lost in the Great Storm of 1913 and only found in 2000 (by local fisherman Don Chalmers) so still has a number of rare artifacts aboard from plates to fixtures which will hopefully remain for years to come.
On the day we were there visibility was about 8′, so much still remains to be seen on this sizeable wreck. Her holds are open and easily accessible, with the bottoms filled with a fair accumulation of silt and sand.
An archeological survey was carried out in 2001, and one of its remnants is a yellow nylon line that is zip tied to a tape measure . Reportedly it previously ran the length of the ship and was intended as a navigational aid, but now due to the way it snakes its way across the wreckage it is more of a hazard (fortunately as of 2004 most of that line and tape is now gone).
Since the hull is steel it is in quite good shape. The bow in particular is pristine with both massive anchors still held firmly in the hawse pipes, but the decking inside the bow has heaved and the windlass is on quite an angle into the ship.
The Wexford was originally outfitted to be steam and sail powered, but the sails were later removed. The pulleys and lines inside the ship would appear to be from equipment used to move its cargo, powered by the two sizeable windlasses near the middle of the ship, fore and aft of the center pilothouse.
The steering wheel appears to be gone and the rudder snapped off, but the ship is lined with deadeyes and portholes, some with the glass broken and others perfectly preserved. On the rear deck slightly starboard is another anchor, lying flat, with a broken ornate lighting fixture just inside one of its flukes (now gone).