Underwater Shipwrecks by zpo16379



                                                                                                                    America's Byway
                                                                                                                    From “Dive the Seaway Trail” Program
                                                                                                                       by David G. White, Phil Church
                                                                                    Photo courtesy of Phil Church            & Kara Lynn Dunn

         he fresh waters of the St. Lawrence        munities themselves and visitors from outside                            the region. The cool, fresh water has preserved

T        River, Lake Ontario, Niagara River and
         Lake Erie are filled with exciting ship-
wrecks, “sea life,” and rock formations. This
                                                    the region to enjoy and learn about this fresh-
                                                    water destination for recreational diving,” says
                                                    David White, recreation/tourism specialist with
                                                                                                                             centuries-old ships and artifacts that would
                                                                                                                             have long since been destroyed by warm salt
                                                                                                                             waters,” says Phil Church, diver and consult-
largely undiscovered underwater world is            New York Sea Grant.                                                      ant to the project. Along with shipwrecks,
being brought to divers’ attention by a new
Initiative, “Dive the Seaway Trail,” a project of
New York Sea Grant and Seaway Trail, Inc.                  Take the plunge and discover what’s
This new project includes the development of
                                                           at the bottom of the lakes and rivers
a series of dive sites that are marked, buoyed             along the Seaway Trail!
and maintained by community-based stewards
along the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario,
Niagara River and Lake Erie. The sites, fea-        “Water clarity has enhanced the visibility of
tured on a new website, can be accessed via         some of the Northeast’s finest diving sites. The
www.seawaytrail.com. “We are pleased to be          diving experience here ranges from weather-
bringing New York’s freshwater resources to         related wrecks and intentionally-sunk vessels
the attention of divers looking for exciting new    to natural formations and cultural treasures of
experiences,” says Seaway Trail, Inc. President     great significance to the maritime heritage of
and CEO, Teresa Mitchell.
                                                    Right: A St. Lawrence River diver exploring the
“An officially designated Seaway Trail Diving       Keystorm, a freighter laden with 2230 tons of coal
Trail and its fascinating collection of under-      from Charlotte, NY when it went down in dense fog
                                                    on October 12, 1912. The ship sank in minutes, with-
water resources provides a wonderful opportu-       out fatalities, and was declared unsalvagable. Photo
nity to divers from both the Seaway Trail com-      courtesy of Phil Church.

                                                                                                                                                         JOURNEY • 55

                                                                                                                    SHIPWRECKS of NOTE
                                                                                                                 The underwater collection of the Seaway
                                                                                                                 Trail waters of the St. Lawrence River,
                                                                                                                 Lake Ontario, Niagara River and Lake
                                                                                                                 Erie includes shipwrecks spanning two
                                                                                                                 and a half centuries with dives for all lev-
                                                                                                                 els of experience. Charter boat and diving
                                                                                                                 guide services help divers reach the
                                                                                                                 wrecks. Visibility in some locations allows
                                                                                                                 viewing of 40 feet at a depth of 110 feet.
                                                                                                                 The Niagara River is a drift diving attrac-
                                                                                                                 tion. Divers can leisurely ride the river’s
                                                                                                                 gentle currents (rarely more than 8
                                                                                                                 mph) to look for aquatic life and items
                                                                                                                 that intentionally or accidentally went
A diver exploring the remains of the M a r y K a y, in Lake Ontario, not far from the David W. Mills Submerged
Cultural Preserve and Dive Site in Oswego, New York. Photo courtesy of Phil Church.                              Lake Erie holds its own extraordinary
                                                                                                                 collection of submerged wooden ships
                                                                                                                 and will soon add a site to the Dive the
         The fresh water environment of the Seaway Trail's                                                       Seaway Trail series.
         waterways provide some of the best scuba diving
                    opportunities in the world.                                                                  The Sodus Bay Lighthouse Museum, one
                                                                                                                 of 28 historic lighthouses on the Seaway
Seaway Trail waters host a surprising variety of            below 100 feet. Mid-water temperature can            Trail, shares the tales of Lake Ontario
wildlife and other cultural resources.                      vary between these extremes depending on the         ships and shipwrecks.
The first destinations profiled on the Dive the             depth of thermoclines. Thermoclines are lay-
                                                                                                                   A S a m p l i n g o f Wr e c k S i t e s
Seaway Trail website are the beginner-level                 ers of water of different temperatures, which
                                                            change their depths throughout the year.             The first shipwreck profiled on the Dive
David W. Mills, Lake Ontario’s first New                                                                         the Seaway Trail website is the beginner-
York State Submerged Cultural Preserve, near                Thermoclines can change the water tempera-
                                                            ture dramatically within a few feet and make         level DAVID W. MILLS, Lake Ontario’s
Oswego, and the Eagle Wings natural fea-                                                                         first New York State Submerged Cultural
                                                            the water appear to shimmer. Sometimes in
tures dive site in the 1000 Islands near                                                                         Preserve, near Oswego. See page 62 for
                                                            late summer, the lakes can “turn over,” or flip
Clayton. Three additional sites being added                                                                      details about the Mills.
                                                            their thermoclines, bringing the cold bottom
this year will include an advanced deep his-
                                                            water to the surface. This exchange can some-        WOLFE ISLANDER II, a massive car
toric dive site, a shore-access dive site, and an
                                                            times create strong temporary currents. The          ferry built in 1946 and intentionally sunk
intermediate site.
                                                            rivers seldom have thermoclines within the           in the St. Lawrence River off Wolfe Island
The fresh water environment of the Seaway                   sport diving limits of 130 feet. It is common to     near Cape Vincent, NY. Doors and hatches
Trail's waterways provide some of the best                  find a uniform temperature throughout the            are welded open for interior exploration.
scuba diving opportunities in the world. Divers             water column, which warms and cools with
frequently observe deadeyes, dishes, tools,                                                                      Lake Ontario holds some 1,500 ships and
                                                            the seasons. Winter underwater temperatures
belaying pins, shoes, pottery, pumps, deck-                                                                      several aircraft. A wing section of the B-
                                                            stay above freezing, but the lakes do some-
houses, boilers, engines, winches, anchors and                                                                   24 bomber “GETAWAY GERTIE” was
                                                            times freeze over their top layer.
a variety of other remains of shipboard life.                                                                    recovered from the Lake.
                                                            Visibility also varies by location and season.
Wooden schooners from the 1800s in deep                                                                          Not far from the DAVID W. MILLS
                                                            Visibility is usually best in the spring and fall,
water often appear almost as they did they day                                                                   steambarge at Oswego is the wreck of the
                                                            and can range from 40 to over 100 feet in nat-
they went down!                                                                                                  tugboat MARY KAY.
                                                            ural light, depending on depth and water
Water temperatures vary from location to loca-              movement. Sediment flows in and near rivers          Pultneyville's waters are home to the
tion and with the seasons. During summer-                   and streams, and algae blooms in mid-sum-            135-foot, three-masted schooner ST.
time, water temperatures in the lakes can                   mer, can reduce visibility to a few feet.            PETER, said to be haunted (advanced
range from the low 70s Fahrenheit in shallow                                                                     divers only please).
                                                            A surprising variety of wildlife can be found
water to the high 30s Fahrenheit at depths                  around Great Lakes shipwrecks sites. Many

fish species congregate around bottom struc-        The latter can sometimes be seen sleeping
ture, a feature lacking in most areas of Lakes      under overhangs during the day, and drifting
Erie and Ontario. Shipwrecks and other man-         vertically like ribbons during night dives.
made object provide the shelter and habitat         Shipwrecks and the lakes’ rocky geologic fea-
these species prefer. At the right time of day      tures left behind by glaciers are also the home
(usually mornings and evenings) whole               of many invertebrates, including the freshwa-
schools of panfish, such as small and large-        ter sponge and the zebra and quagga mussels.
mouth bass, perch, and sunfish, can often be        Freshwater sponges are pale in color and grow
found swarming like a cloud of bees around a                                                                                                                            Diver exploring the sunken Islander near Alexandria
                                                    on hard substrates such as rock, metal and                                                                          Bay, NY. Photo courtesy of Phil Church.
wreck. No wonder Great Lakes anglers often          wood. They grow in a variety of shapes which
have wreck locations saved into their GPS and       lack symmetry. Recent studies suggest the                                                                           mussels are a non-native species that entered
Loran units. Other species that make wrecks         growth of sponges is becoming so prolific they                                                                      the Great Lakes from the ballasts of vessels
their home include muskellunge, northern            can overspread zebra mussel colonies, killing                                                                       from Europe. Both mussels carpet rock, wood
pike, carp, sucker, freshwater drum, and eels.      the stripped mollusks. The zebra and quagga                                                                         and metal surfaces, sometimes in layers sever-
                                                                                                                                                                        al inches thick, and have been known to clog
                                                                                                                                                                        water intakes. The mussels attach themselves

     The David W. Mills                                                                                                                                                 to shipwrecks and other structures using tiny
                                                                                                                                                                        bissel threads, and filter the water for food.
      New York State's First Submerged Cultural Preserve and Dive Site                                                                                                  Take only pictures. Leave only bubbles.
                                                                                                                                                                        Abandoned submerged items resting within
    History of the Ship                Dive Site Information                                                                                                            the jurisdiction of New York State are state
    The David W. Mills was a typical Great          Location: Four and one-half miles west of                                                                           property. Be advised: Removal of objects for
    Lakes cargo vessel of the late 19th century.    the Oswego Harbor Lighthouse, one-half                                                                              any reason is a misdemeanor.
    At 202 feet by 34 feet by 13 feet, this wood-   mile offshore, halfway between shore and                                                                            So, take the plunge. “Dive the Seaway Trail!”
    en "steambarge" could carry over one mil-       the Ford Shoals buoy (G"7").                                                                                        and you'll enjoy some of the Northeast's finest
    lion board feet of lumber. Built by Thomas      GPS: N43.26.555 W076.35.094                                                                                         freshwater diving sites, with a full complement
    Quayle and Sons Shipyard, the vessel was        Access: Boat Only.                                                                                                  of wreck, shoal, drift, deep, and historical div-
    originally named Sparta and was                                                                                                                                     ing. For over three centuries Great Lakes Erie
                                                    Depth: 12-25 feet.                                                                                                  and Ontario and the Niagara and St. Lawrence
    launched at Cleveland, Ohio on April 11,
    1874. The vessel was renamed in 1910 for        Visibility: 20 to 100 feet. Average 45 feet.                                                                        Rivers have been major shipping thorough-
    the manager of the Port Huron Navigation        Temperature: 40 to 73 degrees F.                                                                                    fares. Today, the waters along the Seaway Trail
                                                                                                                                                                        are the final resting place of hundreds of
    Co., the firm that owned the ship. Captain      Skill Level: Basic open water diver.
                                                                                                                                                                        ships, dating back to the late 1700s. Y
    Frank J. Peterson bought the ship in 1919.      Bottom: Flat and rocky.
                                                                                                                                                                           DIVE & DIVE-RELATED SHOPS
    The Mills ran aground on Ford Shoals            Hazards: Lake Ontario weather is unpre-
    (Oswego, NY) on August 11, 1919 in dense        dictable and can change very rapidly from                                                                                       Hunts Dive Shop
    smog created by forest fires in Canada.         good to severe. Weather conditions and                                                                                    40782 Route 12, Clayton, NY 13624
                                                                                                      Historic photo of David W. Mills aground by Mary Gregway, 1919.

    Attempts to free the boat failed and it broke   unexpected weather changes should be a                                                                                   315-686-1070 • seahunt@gisco.net
    apart during a violent October storm.           constant consideration. Strong currents                                                                                Thousand Island Dive Excursions
                                                                                                                                                                              834 Rees Street, Clayton, NY 13624
    From 1991 to 1994, the wreck site was           may be present if seas are running 3 feet or
                                                                                                                                                                              315-686-5542 • www.divetide.com
    mapped by the Oswego Maritime                   higher.
                                                                                                                                                                            Underwater Discoveries Diving
    Foundation (OMF). On May 3, 2000, the           Description: The vessel has broken into                                                                                932 Elizabeth St, Ogdensburg, NY 13669
    Mills was designated as New York State's        large sections, allowing visitors to examine                                                                            Scuba2@northnet.org • 315 393-7145
    first Submerged Cultural Preserve and Dive      ship construction techniques. Prominent                                                                                     Undersea Images (Books)
    Site in Lake Ontario. A mooring buoy is         features include the intact keel with its 11-                                                                            612 James Street, Clayton, NY 13624
    provided from late May through mid-             foot propeller, and anchors, winch, engine,                                                                            315-686-5542 • www.daviddoubilet.com
    October for easy access by divers, snorkel-     boiler, rudder, various pieces of machinery,
                                                                                                                                                                              MARK YOUR CALENDAR NOW FOR:
    ers, and boaters.                               and large sections of hull.
                                                                                                                                                                                T h e S e a w a y Tr a i l 2 0 0 7
                  The diving season is typically May through mid-October.                                                                                                     Shipwrecks Speakers Series
                                                                                                                                                                                  & Shipwreck Exhibit
                May to early June and late summer are the best times to dive.                                                                                                          DETAILS on PAGE 12.


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