Recently I was asked on behalf of Rec Diving to speak about how I approach diving a shipwreck in the Great Lakes. As I have been fortunate to have had many excellent Great Lakes diving mentors, I was happy to share.
Be ready for anything and everything. That’s what I was told when I started diving the Great Lakes. Sure, I was being cautioned about water temperatures that can be frigid, visibility that can be low, and currents that can be swift. But I was also being reminded to tap into my explorer’s spirit because this would be my unique opportunity to observe a time capsule.
More than a dozen years and a hundred Great Lakes dives later, I am grateful for that good advice. I approach each dive like a visit to a favorite museum. Whether it is a schooner more than a hundred years old that is upright and intact, a steel freighter resting upside down with cargo strewn about nearby or a badly broken up wooden steamer, each is a link to the past that fascinates me.
Learning a shipwreck’s unique story is how I start all of my underwater journeys. Then, after finding out the wreck’s depth and position on the bottomland and what artifacts remain, I dive into the fresh water with a cold splash. Sometimes the visibility is so good my buddy and I can see the shipwreck as we make our way down the descent line. Other times I see only my buddy, an arms reach away, until we’re just a few feet above the wreck.
On these dives, I hear only my bubbles. I feel weightless and peaceful. I take in the entire shipwreck, swim around the rail, crisscross the deck and take a peek into a hatch or cargo hold. I consider what remains structurally and at the same time appreciate what is obviously missing. I get excited when an anticipated artifact is spotted and make mental notes of ship parts I don’t recognize so I can look them up after the dive.
It was relatively easy to get accustomed to the extra effort that it takes to dive the Great Lakes. I carry additional lights and safety gear, wear a thick wet or dry suit and often face rough seas. But every open water certified scuba diver could gain the additional training and experience to feel comfortable diving in the Great Lakes. And to get the unique opportunity to go back in time and explore a pristine shipwreck from the mid 1800’s is well worth it.
Dive with Rec Diving in the Great Lakes this summer. Check out our schedule here.