Wednesday 21 April 2010

Diving in Thunder Bay

Hi everyone!

I got a chance to go exploring today on one of Thunder Bay’s shipwrecks. The trip started with a short drive and then a quick hike to reach a good spot to dive into the water.
“The hike out to the site was worth the trip on its own, but it only got better from there!”

I really enjoyed this walk out on the beach where we entered the water for the short swim to the shipwreck. We were going out on a dive to document the shipwreck of the Portland, a schooner wrecked in a storm in 1877. The ship lost control and was driven ashore where it was broken apart by the large waves and rocks. Fortunately the crew got away safely before the ship fell apart. I got to tag along with my diving bubble to see this shipwreck firsthand with a few of the sanctuary’s divers.

“The schooner Portland would have looked like this one in the 1870’s”

The Portland lies in very shallow water and is just a few hundred feet offshore, so it was a very short trip over the sand and rocks that lead out to the shipwreck.  I was just getting used to the movement of the dive bubble and looking out through the glass in my diving bubble into the clear water when suddenly I saw a unusual shape looming in the distance. As my eyes focused, the different pieces of wood that made up the sailboat started to take shape very quickly.
The wooden boat we saw was made up of three layers sandwiched together. We were looking down at the inside of the ship, where you can see the planks that run the length of the boat. The frames run vertically up and down the sides to add structural strength to the ship and then the outer hull planks run the length of the ship like the inner planks to keep the water out. Those are on the bottom layer we’re looking at today.

The bottom and one side of this ship are still visible out in the water, and we got to explore all of it while we were out over the wreck. This was a really fun experience for me, and Steve told me that the shallow shipwrecks in Thunder Bay are a great way to learn more about the ways that these ships were constructed long ago. I have seen models and painting of the vessels that used to visit my local harbour in bygoen days, but I have never been this close to a real historical vessel. I’m so glad I got to see one of the shipwrecks my friends at Thunder Bay are working hard to help protect up close. Thanks to the divers who helped me to have this opportunity! Also a special thanks to Ed at IRobot who built my diving bubble for me, or I would have to just watch from the surface.
“This picture was taken while we explored the front of the shipwreck (called the bow). The large metal tube you see is where the anchor chains passed through”

“This is a picture of me next to the keelson of the Portland. This part of the ship functions as the backbone of the whole boat here in the Great Lakes. No wonder it’s so big!”

I have to go for now, we have a big Earth Day celebration planned tomorrow, and there’s a lot of work to do.

By for now! Ed.

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