SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE
Corey Phillips’ passion for finding and documenting shipwrecks in the Great Lakes kept his audience enthralled during a Mariners Park Museum presentation last weekend.
There are 2,000 documented shipwrecks in Lake Ontario alone, including around 50 near Prince Edward County.
Mr. Phillips, who has made over 900 dives in his career, spoke about the wrecks moored in the County area, the mooring process, and gave a little history about each of the wrecks. There are over 6,000 wrecks among the five Great Lakes, ranging in size from small skiffs to the famous Edmund Fitzgerald, a Great Lakes freighter that sank in Lake Superior in November, 1975. The entire crew of 29 drowned. More wrecks are discovered every year.
The depths of the wrecks range from a few feet to 250 feet below the surface. Underwater visibility is best in spring, when the water is cold.
“Prince Edward County’s wrecks were caused mainly by late November storms, when ships tried to make one last run before the lake froze over for the winter,” said Mr. Phillips.
There are thirteen main wrecks divers visit around Prince Edward County. This includes the Minola, which sunk off Point Traverse while being towed into service for World War I; the Alberta, a paddlewheeler off the point of Prinyers Cove; the Florence, sunk in 1933, near Timber Island; the Fabiola, sunk 1900, near False Duck Island and the Oliver Mowat near Main Duck Island.
“The cold fresh water of the lakes preserves wrecks much longer than ocean water,” said Mr. Phillips.
He showed photographs of the Kattie Eccles, “one of the most-photographed wrecks in Lake Ontario.” The 95- foot-long schooner is in 95 feet of water, also off Timber Island. There are many visible details on this wreck, including still-intact glass jars of preserves.
Diving these wrecks is a growing segment of Prince Edward County’s tourism industry.
As far as exploration goes, “we haven’t touched the tip of the iceberg regarding what’s out there,” said Mr. Phillips. There are many undiscovered shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, and he and the organizations he is involved with will continue to explore, document, protect and preserve them for future generations.
Mr. Phillips stressed how important it is for divers to respect the wrecks and not touch or move anything. The not-for-profit Save Ontario Shipwrecks educates the public on preservation. Divers must apply for government permits and licences to move and display any underwater artifacts. Taking anything from a wreck can incur a $50,000 fine and/or prison time.
Mr. Phillips is an underwater videographer/photographer and past Vice-President of Preserve Our Wrecks, in Kingston. He is Mooring Director of the Save Ontario Shipwrecks – Picton Chapter, and co-founder of shotlinediving.com, quickly becoming the go-to location to document and track shipwrecks in Ontario waters.
The volunteer Shotline Diving group is tasked with the capture and preservation of Ontario’s underwater heritage.
“It is becoming the go-to resource for anything underwater in Ontario,” said Mr. Phillips. The group publishes GPS coordinates for dive tourism as well.
To find out more about Corey Phillips and his projects visit his Facebook site, Save Ontario Shipwrecks.