Fathom Five National Marine Park, situated in the Georgian Bay area of Lake Huron in Canada’s Ontario province, is a National Marine Conservation Area specially designated for the protection and display of shipwrecks and lighthouses, and which is also tasked with the conservation of the lake’s freshwater ecosystem. Famous for its stacked escarpment cliffs, or flowerpots, plus its lovely little islands, the park is home to over twenty shipwrecks. Some are in such shallow water that tourists can view them from glass bottomed boats; many are excellent for diving. Here are just five of the best.
Charles P. Minch
Built in Ohio in 1867, the Charles P. Minch was a 47.2 meter schooner, which ran aground in 1898 while carrying a load of lumber. Today, after more than a century beneath the cold, clear water of the lake, the old schooner lies broken and scattered at depths between six and sixteen meters. A fantastic site for all divers, this wreck has many identifiable features, including the ship’s rudder. A second rudder, probably from the wreck of the nearby Tecumseh, sits to the west of the inner mooring buoy. You’ll find wreckage all over Tecumseh Cove, at Cove Island, with the highest concentration being near shore close to the head of the cove.
The wreck of the Arabia lies beneath 37 meters of water off Echo Island, where she foundered in October of 1884. A 40.1 meter barque, built in Kingston Ontario in 1853, the Arabia is in excellent condition, with her bow section still proudly displaying its bowsprit, anchors, and windlass. The ship’s masts have fallen and lie across the deck, and the wheel lies off to her starboard side. Often plagued by poor visibility and strong currents, the wreck is only suitable for experienced divers under the direction of a knowledgeable dive master with good knowledge of local weather patterns. Due to depth, the site is always very cold and a dry suit is a must.
Built in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1871, the W.L. Wetmore was 65.1 meters long, and lies beneath just 10 meters of water. Easily accessible to all divers, the ship was lost during a storm on November 29th of 1901, and ended up lying near Russell Island, across an intriguing section of bedrock which is nearly as impressive as the wreck itself. You’ll find plenty of timber wreckage which still displays the craftsmanship 19th century shipbuilders prided themselves on, along with the boiler, the ship’s rudder, and an impressive length of anchor chain, along with a massive propeller almost 5 meters across. The upper sections of the wreck are in water shallow enough to be explored by snorkelers, and when visibility is good, it is possible to see almost all the way to the bottom from the surface.
Wrecked during a storm in November of 1903, the Newaygo was a 59.7 meter steamship. While trying to escape a blinding blizzard, she ran aground on Middle Bank, near the Devil Island Channel. Today, the ship lies in 8 meters of water along a trench between Northwest Bank and Middle Bank. A 100 foot section of hull sits about forty feet from the anchor, and another two sections of hull sit about 300 feet from the first piece. Other pieces of wreckage are scattered throughout the area, including the boiler and wheel. An easy and relaxing dive suitable for all levels, the site is at its best when conditions are calm.
As legend has it, the Caroline Rose is one of three ships depicted on the back of old Canadian one hundred dollar bills. The schooner was built in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, in 1940, and sunk at a different location before being salvaged and towed to Driftwood Cove in 1990, specifically to serve as a dive site. The ship sits beneath just a little less than 17 meters of water, and although it was intact when sunk, it has since been flattened. There are still quite a few artifacts present; you’ll find the prop, chains, pulleys and ropes, and even the sink from the galley.
Other popular wrecks worth exploring in Tobermory’s Fathom Five National Marine Park include the Sweepstakes, The Tugs, andThe City Of Grand Rapids.
Camping and other accommodations are located near the marine park, and there are plenty of hiking trails and other scenic attractions nearby, so you can explore while you’re not diving. Before hitting the water, you’ll need to get a dive tag by registering at the park visitor center. Daily wristbands cost just a few dollars, and an annual tag which is valid through March 31st of the following year is available for around $20 – an excellent value that will allow you to visit time and again.