Thunder Bay Divers Locate Historic Lake Superior Shipwreck

Posted 28 October 2013 by in Local Regional

“This ship is a once in a lifetime find,” commented David Shepherd, one of the two divers responsible for the initial discovery. “How often do you get to find and dive into history.”

“This ship is a once in a lifetime find,” commented David Shepherd, one of the two divers responsible for the initial discovery. “How often do you get to find and dive into history.”

Lake Superior Shipwreck Discovery Historic

THUNDER BAY –  “This ship is a once in a lifetime find,” commented David Shepherd, one of the two divers responsible for the initial discovery. “How often do you get to find and dive into history.” Two Thunder Bay divers have located and identified a previously unknown shipwreck of great historical significance. The wreck, believed to be the seventy-nine foot tug boat Mary Ann, has the distinction of being the first vessel ever registered in the Dominion of Canada in 1867.

The ship was reported to have been scuttled in 1936 at a different location at water depths in excess of 200’. As such it would not have been accessible to recreational Divers. As it turns out the wreck is in a different, much shallower location offering great recreational potential.

The Mary Ann

The Mary Ann in better days.

David Shepherd and Rob Valley discovered the wreck using sophisticated side-scan equipment, computer technology, and a lot of luck.

The find was in many ways accidental.

Shepherd and Valley were calibrating their equipment on what they believed was a known shipwreck but instead discovered the Mary Ann without realizing it.

It wasn’t until later when they returned to the GPS coordinates for a dive with friends that they realized they were on a new ship wreck.

“I was completely shocked when David came back to the surface and informed me ‘well it’s not the ship we were supposed to be on’,” reports Valley.

“The big question now was if it isn’t what we thought it was, what is it?”

Over the next three month Shepherd, Valley and other local divers returned on numerous occasions to the site to document and film the wreck. Then, using historical documents and the knowledge of local shipwreck historians including well known wreck hunter Ryan LeBlanc, that they compared the data collected from the wreck, they were able to confirm the find as the Mary Ann.

Creating Local Chapter Ontario Under Water Council

This is a really exciting and encouraging find” said fellow diver Mayor Richard Harvey of Nipigon, who has been working alongside Shepherd and Valley to establish a local Chapter of the Ontario Under Water Council.

“I believe there is incredible potential to develop the North Shore of Lake Superior as a Dive Tourism Destination and a find like this is a real boost for establishing a local under water council.” 

The mandate of the Local chapter of the Ontario Under Water Council will be to preserve and promote ship- wrecks and safe wreck diving. Once formed the local chapter of the OUC will start the process of getting histori- cal protection for the Mary Ann and other new finds as well as developing dive strategies for the many other ship- wrecks in the area. All three agree that there are many more shipwrecks waiting to be found and documented in Lake Superior.

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