Great Lakes Underwater Shipwreck Stories and Photos

Click thumbnails for Isle Royale shipwreck stories, videos and photos.*




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Diving Isle Royale: 1977 and 2010

I have been to Isle Royale twice. The first time was with the Grand Valley Scuba Diving Club in 1977. We crossed Lake Michigan on the ferry out of Ludington and dove from the Superior Diver out of Grand Portage, Minnesota. The second time, Jeff Vos and I drove his truck around Chicago up through Wisconsin again to Grand Portage on the north shore of Lake Superior.

The trip in 1977 was a magic experience. The island is one of the truly wild places left in America: miles of deep densely wooded rock; a black night sky filled with stars and northern lights; cold, deep, clear water; and shipwrecks suspended in time. That winter, I had sold a Nikonos underwater camera to purchase a Canon Super 8 cine film camera with an Ikelite housing. Armed with ten film cassettes, I filmed the Island above and below water. Back home editing film, I couldn’t wait to get back! Unfortunately, lining up six guys to spend a week of vacation away from their families proved more daunting than I had ever imagined. It would be thirty-three years before I would return.

I returned to a place barely changed in those thirty-three years: miles of wild uninhabited shoreline; cold dark water; and shipwrecks clear of the mussels infesting the lower lakes. In 1977, all the talk on the trip up was about the Kamloops. It was one of the Lakes’ great mysteries, having disappeared during a storm in 1932. They had recently discovered the wreck in 250 feet off the North shore, too deep for us then. This time, Jeff and I carried a K bottle of helium in the back of his truck.

Arriving at Grand Portage in 1977, we were informed that the doubles we had trailered behind the Dodge cargo van “Old Blue” were not allowed on the boat. I would trade my trusted steel 72s for one of six aluminum 80s provided. In 2010 I was equipped with large steel 98 doubles, helium and decompression gas. Images from 2010 were taken with a Sony DV video camera, a Nikon in an Aquatica housing, and a Nikonos III with matching 15mm Nikkor lens. The Nikonos, representing the best setup in 1977, was purchased specifically for the trip. The twenty-three-year-old camera worked remarkably well with at least half of the photos of the Kamloops and Congdon shot with it.

The video included in this section are “outtakes” from the two trips. Most of the divers in the Super 8 clips from 1977 are no longer diving, and some have passed away. Time moves. The wolves on Isle Royale still hunt, and the shipwrecks still lie in a cold grave beneath the cold water of Lake Superior.

Consult the Michigan Underwater Preserves Council's Divers Guide website for more information, including GPS coordinates, for all the wrecks mentioned here.


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