Isle Royale - Day 3

Wednesday morning dawned bright an early.  Our alarm was Captain Ryan playing "It's a Beautiful Morning" by the Rascals - loudly.  By the end of the week, what once starts out as a a fun way to wake up quickly becomes the worst way ever.  Ok, perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration.  Then again, I'm not the world's biggest morning person.  Actually, I'm not a morning person at all.  Some say I am downright grumpy in the mornings. I say that they are just in my way.

In any case, we had a full day of diving planned: the Emperor Stern, Congdon Bow and the Emperor Bow.  Consequently, this is going to be a little longer post.  First up, the Emperor Stern!

 Photograph courtesy of the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes at Bowling Green State University

Photograph courtesy of the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes at Bowling Green State University

The Emperor was a steel hulled freighter than ran aground on a rocky shoal in 1947.  She split into two pieces and sank quickly, the stern on one side of the shoal and the bow on the other.  Twelve crew members on board- including the captain and the first mate - were lost when the Emperor sank.  Today, the top of the stern sits at roughly 110' of water.  On this dive, Aaron and I decided to explore the engine room.  This thing was MASSIVE!  It was far easier to get into this engine room than it was to get into the engine room of the America.  We swam around and saw the giant boilers, lots of machinery, some old tools laying around, and a plaque placed there commemorating those who lost their life when the Emperor sank.  Using our Shearwater Petrel computers, we were able to get a decent amount of bottom time - 13 minutes or so - before we reach our no decompression limits (NDLs).  On our way back up, Captain Ryan had oxygen hanging at our safety stop to help flush out the excess nitrogen on our systems.  The coolest part is that we can switch our gas mixtures on the fly - even in recreational mode - using the Petrel and it will take it into effect when running its calculations.  Since this dive is so deep, the total length of the dive is fairly short - 30 minutes or so - which is fine by me!  Since I get cold easy, I like that it's the no decompression time, and not my core temperature, that dictates how long of a dive we can do.  And the best part is that Aaron can't argue with it!

Illustration courtesy of the National Park Service, drawn by Jerry Livingston

The next site we dove was the Congdon Bow.  On a foggy day in November of 1918, the ship ran aground on a shoal.  All of her crew were rescued.  Two days later, a storm broke the ship into two and she sank.  The wreck of the Chester A. Congdon was the first on the Great Lakes to be valued as over $1 million.  This is one trippy wreck to dive!  There is a reason they have nicknamed it the fun house!  The bow section sits at a nearly vertical angle to the bottom.  In order to do penetration into the wreck and swim around on the different levels, you are constantly ascending and descending - and filling your drysuit with argon and then dumping it. When you swim in through a door, what looks like the floor is really a wall and the wall is really a ceiling.  Aaron and I both finished that dive a little bit disoriented and I was slightly dizzy from all the funky angles.  All in all, it was a cool dive though!

The final dive of the day was on the Emperor bow section.  The bow sits mostly upright and is connected to a large part of the rest of the ship.  The way it sits, there is a swim through a couple hundred feet or so back from the bow where you can swim underneath the ship.  The ship is roughly 50 feet wide and it was really cool to swim under it.  After that, we headed back to the bow and played around in the anchor room where the anchor lines and machinery is kept. Since the bow is fairly shallow (50ish feet or so), we had a lot of time on this dive.  Unfortunately, I got cold.  Even with the great undergarments, argon for the drysuit, and dry gloves, I still got cold in the 40 degree water after about a half hour.  I really need to figure this out....maybe it's time for battery-powered heated undergarments...

Illustration courtesy of the National Park Service, drawn by Jerry Livingston

On our way to Tobin Harbor, a short walk from Rock Harbor and where we docked that night, we stopped on a small island called Caribou Island to wait out some weather.  While we were here, we had a great time hunting on the shore for Isle Royale Greenstone. Unfortunately, we only found some really small examples of this semi-precious gemstone.  After a dinner of New York strip steaks in Tobin Harbor, we commandeered the charcoal grill and had a fire on the dock.  Aaron and I had stuff for gourmet s'mores that we brought (think Ghiradelli chocolate and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups) and everyone enjoyed one (or five, no judgement here).  After a long day of diving in frigid waters though, we needed the extra calories to stay warm - at least that's what I tell myself!

Check back soon to hear more about the diving we did on Thursday, day 4, of our trip!

- Meghan -