Superior Underwater Exploration Society Finds Another Wreck

Lake Superior
Shoreline along Lake Superior - photo courtesy of Ministry of Natural Resources

Wreck on bottom of Lake Superior

NIPIGON – When Nipigon Mayor Richard Harvey spent a day aboard the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Research Vessel – Kiyi to learn about Great lakes fish research he never thought it would lead to the discovery of a new wreck on Lake Superior. But that is exactly what happened. As Vice President of the Superior Underwater Exploration Society (SUES) Harvey is always thinking about locating shipwrecks so asked the captain Joe Walters, if he has ever ‘snagged’ their nets on anything that wasn’t marked on the charts and if they did, to let him know as it could be a ship wreck.

A short time later Harvey received a call from Captain Walters to inform him that that was exactly what happened, the nets had been snagged in the area of Cloud Bay to the extent that the ship was unable to free them and forced to cut them loose. “This was really exciting from our perspective,” recalled Harvey. “I knew it would take a significant structure to ensnare the nets from a ship the size of the KIYI to the extent that they would be unable to free them.”

Despite realizing that it was just as likely, if not more, that what the KIYI had snagged was nothing more than a rock outcropping, Harvey proceeded to put together a team comprised of other members of SUES, to look for both the net, but more importantly, the structure it was snagged on. On Saturday August 9th, the first part of the search began as members used high-tech down imaging sonar to look for both the net as well as the structure it was snagged on.

“It is always exciting as you search a new area,” said Rob Valley, the boat and sonar operator. “Nothing is ever where you expect it to be but once you have done this enough you know what to look for.”

And find it they did. In just over 70 feet of water both the net as well as a large object were spotted on the screen.

After dropping markers and anchoring at the location Harvey and fellow diver Chris Berner descended to start the underwater survey.

“It was a pleasant surprise to look up and see the outline of a ship instead of the net,” commented Berner.

An old barge, half buried in silt and quite entangled by the net and cables from the KIYI, was resting in the same place where probably more than 100 years ago she settled to her silent grave. The rest of that dive, as well as the subsequent dive, was spent surveying and filming the wreck in order to identify the issues and concerns especially around possible entrapment and other safety issues. Clearly the net from the KIYI is an issue but there is also evidence that at least one other net was likely lost at this location before.

Wally Peterson, Owner of Wally’s Thunder Country Diving, joined the effort the following day.

“The most important thing on any new wreck is safety,” stated Peterson. “Before we start surveying the actual wreck to attempt identification, and certainly before taking divers to her we have to make sure all hazards and risks are minimized.”

With this in mind an effort has begun to remove the fishnet and equipment that was snagged on the wreck and clean it up so that eventually it can be established as a new dive site.

When asked who gets the credit for the find Harvey responded that this is really a group effort.

“Although I was the one who put the team together, first learned of the potential location and was the first to ‘be on the wreck,’ it was Chris Berner who first laid eyes on her. Yet if it wasn’t for the expertise that Rob Valley had with the scanning equipment, his ability to actually pinpoint the spot, we may never have found her,” stated Harvey.

The slogan of the Superior Underwater Exploration Society (SUES) is exploring history one fin kick at a time and is a group of volunteers who are working towards promoting scuba diving, preserving shipwrecks and exploring the underwater environment in the North of Superior Region.

For more information check out our Facebook page or go to www.divesuperior.com.S.U.E.S is a member of the Ontario Underwater Council (OUC) and works with divers in the North of Superior Region to promote safe scuba diving and exploring the underwater world.
The club’s mandate is to promote scuba diving in the North of Superior Region through:

  • Safe Diving practices
  • Tourism Development
  • Preservation and enjoyment of shipwrecks and the underwater environment
Lake Superior
Shoreline along Lake Superior – photo courtesy of Ministry of Natural Resources