Exploring Part 3: Minnesota

After we left the Porkies, our next stop was Duluth, Minnesota.  I have never been to Duluth but Aaron has.  Finding a hotel proved difficult since there was a reggie festival and a bike race that weekend.  So, we camped.  I managed to find a campground on the south-ish side of Duluth and we stayed there.  However, running a few errands to grab a couple things we needed, I discovered that there were a lot of hotel just outside of Duluth.  Apparently, these didn't pop up in my search.  I blame the poor cell service and lack of internet at the Porkies.  I guess I could have booked something before we left, or when we were in Houghton, but that would have taken all the fun out of it!  

On our way, we stopped in Superior, Wisconsin to visit the S.S. Meteor, the last remaining whaleback freighter.  Also on Barker's Island Marina was a wooden/ classic boat show.  Many of these boat were on the water and were giving rides. See the pictures at the bottom for some of the more beautiful boats we liked.

One of my sorority sisters lives just outside of Duluth so we got together with her and her boyfriend for dinner and drinks.  It had been a couple of years since I had last seen her, and I didn't realize how much I had missed her.  

On Sunday, we started our way north to Grand Portage.  On Saturday, we had popped into the two local dive shops in Duluth and one of them recommended that we stop and dive the wreck of the Madeira.  The ship was a steel freighter that got caught in the weather in a bad storm in November of 1905.  It was bashed up against a cliff and sank in 30 - 100 feet of water.  She lies listing to one side, with wreckage strewn about her, and in a couple large chunks.  Despite the fact that she is broken up, it was still a breathtaking wreck to dive.  In fact, it was the loss of the Madeira that convinced Washington that Split Rock Lighthouse needed to be erected.  Thankfully, 9 of the 10 men aboard her survived.

Our insta-buddies from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  The bitts in the picture were salvaged from the Madeira wreck.

We started by obtaining a day pass for the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.  From there, they gave us directions to the parking lot and how to get to the water.  We headed down to the water and met a few divers from Fantasea Scuba and Travel in the twin cities.  They've been diving this wreck for years and know it well.  They were on their surface interval before heading out for a second dive, and they were kind enough to invite us to tag along with them on their second dive.  

It's a surface swim of approximately 1/8th of a mile to reach the bouy.  Man was that a long swim, but I would do it again in a heart beat.  From there, we dropped down on top of the windlass and swam out to the pilot house.  The pilot house was blown off of the ship when she sank and lies slightly away from the rest of the wreck.  We then headed back to the windlass, swam around the fantail and then headed to the bow section.  There was a little bit of penetration that we did into the bow.  If you want to squeeze, it's a swim through.  Aaron was able to maneuver through one of the windows to exit, I just decided to exit the way we entered.  We aren't able to take many underwater photos yet, but here is a link for a youtube video that shows what it's like to dive this wreck.  If you're a cold water diver, and in the northern Minnesota area, Aaron and I would both highly recommend that you do this dive.  You won't regret it.

We were then on our final trip to Grand Portage.  The night before we got on the boat, we stayed at the casino so we could get one last good shower in before being cooped up on a boat, in stinky dive gear, for a week.  We are stoked about the wreck diving we are going to be doing on Isle Royale!  Be sure to check back for trip reports!

- Meghan -