Little Tub Harbour, Tobermory, Ontario
Flattenned and Scattered
The Robert K. is one of four wrecks that met their fate in Little Tub Harbour.
She is likely the first one you will encounter as you suit up at the specially built platform designed to make it easier for divers to access this extremely popular site. In fact, as you walk into the water if you wander just a few steps to the left you will likely walk right over the Robert K.
This wreck is shallow and pretty broken up, with nothing particularly spectacular about it, but for ALOT of Ontario divers who do their open waters in Ontario this is the first wreck they ever see.
Also in this bay you will be able to find the broken up remains of the Alice G., Bob Foote, and Joan and Alex, along with some debris that has been dumped here over the years.
Upright, scattered and flattened
This is a friendly kinda wreck, great for relatively new divers who will find adecent amount to see.
At 214′ long the Wetmore has plenty of interesting features, the highlight beingthe sizeable boiler which now sits just below the surface. A large pile of chainnear the bow leads to the wooden-stock anchor.
Utilizing the large number of nails that have dropped from the eroding timbersdivers have taken to arranging them on a nearby piece of wood with the messagechanging regularly.
Only one blade remains on the prop, evidence of the struggle the ship had tryingto stay off the rocks on the night it went down. The Wetmore was pulling thebarges J.C. King and Brunette during a vicious storm but after cutting the othertwo ships loose the Wetmore went to the bottom along with them, with the Kingjust around the corner (the Brunette was later raised).
Earlier in her life the Wetmore ended the sailing career of the wooden threemasted schooner M.E. Tremble when they collided in 1890 and the Tremble wentrapidly to the bottom of the St. Clair River.
Bear’s Rump Island, Tobermory
Upright on a steep slope
The Forest City is one of the premiere dive sites in Tobermory.
She starts rather disappointingly as a wide band of twisted metal, a collection of timbers and broken decking at around 55′ but her condition improves with depth to the point when you reach her boiler at approximately 108′ she looks great.
Due to her wildly varying depth the upper areas are accessible to advanced divers but tech-types will be attracted to her stern which looks great. Located in Tobermory (where cold water was invented) you can add depth and occasional current to this list of challenges when diving this site.
Perplexingly, it is reported that officials of the Fathom Five National Marine park refuse to allow this popular location to be marked/moored for years, which meant there was no descent/ascent line (which added to the potential dangers, so go figure). Fortunately there was a change of heart in 2004 and the site was finally buoyed.
To date, the Forest city is the site of the most diving fatalities inside the park. (Added Sept. 2003) In the 2003 season the stern rail of the ship, which had been one of the highlights of the site, was a fatality itself when it was ripped off by a dive boat which had anchored improperly (see photos below with and without the top rail). This damage and the number of lives lost diving this wreck, may have been the motivation to FINALLY getting a mooring block placed here. Good thing, too, because along with the Arabia the Forest City is one of the best wrecks in the park if you enjoy your water like your queen of England: cold as hell with a little frigid on the side.
May 15, 1999
(intentionally as a dive site)
The major criticism of diving in Tobermory is that the wrecks are only a collection of timbres so demolished you have a hard time believing they were ever a ship. It is a valid criticism of several of the wrecks there but no one can say that about the Niagara II. As aging wrecks go, this one is a … sperm.
The 182′ long vessel was purchased by the Tobermory Maritime Association and sunk as a dive site on May 15, 1999. It was a huge undertaking for the tiny group who reportedly spent $40,000 to purchase it, $36,000 to tow it, $22,000 to clean it (gotta be environmentally friendly) and over 1,000 person-hours to prepare it as a dive site.
They have been rewarded with a complete success as it is an absolute blast to dive. The wreck lies just off a high, rocky shoreline which provides good shelter to the site. The depth is 97′ at the bow and 87′ te the stern, with the top of the wheelhouse at just 45′. Since it was lovingly prepared as a dive site there are access holes cut liberally throughout the ship and many of the potential entanglements have been removed making it one of the safest penetrations around for those so inclined (and trained). Naturally, being so fresh off the shelf it has little silt thereby reducing the dangers to the point where the largest potential mishap might be from having the regulator fall out of your mouth from saying "Holy #@_%$" so often.
The Niagara II went down leaning to starboard as she nosed into the barren, rocky bottom, so there is some impact damage, a little crumpling, and in some rooms the ceiling planks have fallen down, but otherwise it is entirely intact and totally fun.
The first dive I spent meandering around the outside, noticing the (many) entrances and hull details, then went inside a few spots for a closer look on the second dive. The highlight of the ship is the wheelhouse, complete with wheel and remnants of instrumentation. (I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the wheel is fake. It had been removed years ago when the ship was converted to a barge, but members of the TMA thought it would be a nice touch to add one. They weren’t wrong.) Thanks to some liberal cutting it is possible to swim down the 4-feet-wide smokestack and emerge on one of the lower levels which is a real hoot.
The Niagara II started life as a freighter in 1930, then was converted to a sand sucker in 1954, and after sustaining some hull damage had her engines removed and was turned into a barge in 1990. She is 182′ long with a beam of 35′, height 50′, draft of 13′ and gross tonnage of 723.
The ship lies just outside of Fathom Five National Marine Park (Canada’s first underwater national park) so you do not need to get the $8 park dive permit, but do need the $12 TMA Niagara II season pass which is available at any of the Tobermory dive shops.
China Reef, Tobermory
Flatten and Scattered
There is little chance the China will go down (no pun intended) as one of the most amazing wrecks in Tobermory, but it is still kinda interesting.
She chose the hard way to get a reef named after her: running into it and sinking. That damage, combined with the shallow depth, ice, wind and waves have combined to flatten this little ship rather well (think of it as road kill on the great lake of life). The largest contiguous section of the ship has been whittled down to about 50′ -and it’s just on one side of the keel.
Before you go thinking that means there is nothing interesting to see here, guess again. When was the last time you got to closely examine the centerboard box of a mid-nineteenth century schooner? Were able to examine the way the centerboard curves for easy deployment? Got to see the ultra-strong scarf joint that made long wooden keels possible? Or saw the joints cut into the keelson for attaching the frames (ribs) to? We dived the site with a marine archeologist who had a near-orgasmic experience when she saw the wreck - which was quite a feat in chilly 46 degree water.
The China lies within just a few meters of the shoreline but because it’s private property can only be accessed by boat. For the adventurous, the rudder can be found but is not particularly close to the main part of the wreck.
Because the Avalon Voyageur wrecked not far from this site, some of the timbers in the area might not be from the China (like the sizeable one found on shore nearby).
Upright, Flattened, Scattered
This wreck has money written all over it.
Please pardon my dyslexia, it is actually the other way around… money has this wreck written all over it, literally. If you have an old Canadian $100 bill (I am told some people are rich enough to have one) the Caroline Rose is one of the three ships depicted on the back.
This vessel had originally sunk elsewhere while serving as a cruise ship but was raised and transported to just outside the boundaries of Fathom Five National Marine Park and scuttled as a dive site in 1990.
At that time the wreck was in great shape but it was ripped apart in a violent storm just weeks later, causing extensive damage but half of the hull was still intact.
Since then the wreck has been flattened entirely leaving the stack on the boiler as her highest point. How flat is it? The top left photo is the bow.
There are still a number of items to see at this site, most notably the prop which is still in place, and what may have been a spare prop resting in the middle of the debris. You can also find chains, rope, tanks, a small engine, pulleys and even the kitchen sink.
Built in Lunnenberg Nova Scotia, some believe the Caroline Rose was a sister ship to the legendary Bluenose which came from the same birthplace.
If Tobermory is considered the king of diving in Ontario the Arabia would be the jewel of his crown. Inside the Fathom Five National Marine Park the Arabia is the most intact and interesting of the 21 wrecks by far.
If you have a choice between the two mooring lines opt for the bow because this is quite a different wreck depending on which end you dive it from, and some people are not able to tour the whole ship on just a single dive.
When starting at the bow you may well be under the impression the Arabia is still absolutely perfect without a plank out of place. The bowsprit (actually a jib boom) is almost pristine, complete with hanging chains and seemingly nothing missing but a few feet off the end. Just behind there her two sizeable anchors still rest locked on the railings, and the windlass, bilge pump and other machinery are incredibly well preserved by the frigid water. One of her sizeable masts lies over the port rail and the other two can be found nearby.
Heading aft things start to get a little messier. Although the railings and hull sides are in great shape the midsection of the ship is littered with debris and little that is recognizable aside from the centerboard winch with large gear-wheels on the sides (making it look almost like a cart).
By the time you reach the stern things have really deteriorated. The vertical "end" of the stern is missing completely which may give you the impression there is little back here of interest, but drop over the starboard rail and you will find the wheel still attached to a section steering gear and a stone monument celebrating the wreck’s 100th anniversary in 1984.
This site is perpetually cold even in the height of summer and sometimes has a current which adds to the level of difficulty. No lives were lost when this ship sank but 14 divers have perished here since the wreck was found in 1971, the latest being in in August 2004. The Arabia is second most advanced site in the park (the first being the Forest City).
Legend has it that the wheelhouse was pulled off the wreck by the anchor of a dive boat and it rests somewhere nearby.
She may not be the prettiest, but there is a good chance the Sweepstakes is one of the most dived upon wrecks in Ontario. Resting in only 15 feet of water it is the ultimate entry-level wreck, making it perfect for dive students or those newly certified. Being so shallow you get lengthy bottom time to explore, the only problem being the limited amount TO explore.
The "Sweeps" is an old ship, built in 1867 and sunk in 1885 just half a stones throw away from the City of Grand Rapids which actually protrudes considerably from the water in Big Tub Harbor.
Starting from the stern the deck is as bare as a ballroom floor (with a few boards missing) aside from the entrances to the hold until you reach the bow area where the sizeable windlass emerges as the wreck’s dominant feature.
With the reduction of the water level in Lake Huron the Sweepstakes at times breaks the surface, so while diving under ice in Feb. 2001 there was not much room to roam when swimming above the deck.
Realizing the entrances to the hold are large and inviting, the Fathom Five National Marine Park officials have opted for safety and put up fencing to prevent penetration - think of it as diving’s version of safe sex. It also reduces the damage caused by exhaled bubbles which can be considerable when you take into account the volume of divers this wreck sees.
To ensure this resource is around for years to come divers have been reinforcing the sides for decades in an attempt to keep the hull together. Let’s have a standing ovation for that kinda thoughtfulness!!!
Little Tub Harbour Tobermory, Ontario
Upright with a list to Starboard
It’s not much of a stretch of the imagination, but I’m guessing this is likely the most dived wreck in the entire Fathom Five National Marine Park.
Its easy shore access, platform for suiting up, and shallow depth make this an exceptional site for beginners, conveniently located close to the Parks Canada office where divers must pick up a tag and pay a minimal fee for diving in the park.
There are actually the remains for three boats near this site, with this one being in the best shape.
The stern of the Alice G and the boilers are the best parts.
Park officials, in their efforts to track the rate of deterioration, have gone a little overboard with putting markers and measuring devices on this wreck but you get the idea how much they want to monitor these resources.
Being a small ship that has been under the waves since 1927 it is rather broken up. Once you’ve covered the major items of the site it can be interesting to check out the details like nuts, bolts, nails, building techniques, or try to envision what the wreck was like in a former life.
On the plus-side, after having dived in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario it is amazing to see WOOD on a wooden wreck like you can in Tobermory. If that sounds a little strange… take a look at the pictures on this page, and those on other pages… look Ma…. no zebra mussels.