Isle Royale - Day 2

Early on Tuesday morning, we woke up to the sky alight with an electrical storm.  The sky was awesome to watch and the lightning lit everything up almost like daylight.  And then then wind came. Followed closely by the rain.  Even docked, the boat was rocking.  Thankfully the storm was short-lived, but it ushered in much cooler weather and left some lingering wind making for a choppy day on the water.  

We left Windigo early in the morning, while everyone was still sleeping, and headed down towards the wreck of the Monarch on the northwestern side of the island.  On the way, we stopped at a small abandoned ranger station to have breakfast (easier to cook when the boat is docked).  Once we reached the wreck site, the boat was moored and we started gearing up.  There was only one tiny problem.  There were 2 - 3 foot waves and quite a strong current.  While these seem like small waves, trying to don scuba gear, jump in the water and then swim to the bow make them seem more like 8 - 10 footers.  

 Historical photo courtesy of Historical Collection of the Great Lakes at Bowling Green State University

Historical photo courtesy of Historical Collection of the Great Lakes at Bowling Green State University

The Monarch is a 259 foot wooden passenger-package freighter that steamed straight into a rocky outcropping during a snow storm in December 1906.  By keeping her engines running, the captain was able to keep the ship afloat, allowing all except one to climb to safety.  Today, the wreck lies in 65 - 80 feet of water, but is mostly broken up.  Nevertheless, there are a ton of artifacts to find on this wreck and each year, more are dug up.  Thankfully, those who dive this wreck leave these artifacts for other divers to enjoy; in Michigan, they are legally forbidden to remove artifacts from shipwrecks but that doesn't stop some people.  On the wreck, there is even a water pump that still "works" - I use that term loosely in that it moves, but it's ability to pump water is somewhat compromised, all things considered.

Drawing courtesy of National Park Service Submerged Cultural Resources Department

Fortunately for all sport divers that wish to visit these wrecks, there are gorgeous site maps that we created in 1981-1986.  The line drawings are extremely accurate and create a great way to plan all of your diving while within the park.  Unfortunately not all wrecks in the Great Lakes have this much documentation.  We spent about 40 minutes on the wreck before getting cold and coming up.  Getting out of the water was just as hard as getting in and included a surface swim, using a line, from the mooring to the stern of the boat, and then trying to time your exit with the waves - easier said than done.  Thankfully, we both made it out of the water and back onto the boat without any mishap.  Unfortunately, the waves had gotten a little larger and diving the rest of the day was cancelled.  Ahh, the joys of Lake Superior!  

 The cliffs that the Monarch crashed into.  The crew of the Monarch climbed these cliffs to their safety.

The cliffs that the Monarch crashed into.  The crew of the Monarch climbed these cliffs to their safety.

 

That night we docked in Rock Harbor and were able to grab a couple of things that we needed, shower and even grab a cold KBC Widowmaker (basically the best beer ever) - on tap!  I swear, if I had known that I could get KBC on tap and have toilet (pit or flush - I'm not picky), I would have visited the island when I was in college.  I'm not into the whole backpacking thing (yet), but I'm totally cool with camping!

The next morning, we set off for an intense day of diving 3 wrecks: the Emperor Stern, the Congdon Bow and the Emperor Bow.  Check back for more on these wrecks!

- Meghan -