The next stop in our two week vacation was Grand Portage, Minnesota where we were to board a boat for a week-long liveaboard diving the shipwrecks of Isle Royale.
We pulled in on Sunday afternoon, ready for a week of hardcore shipwreck diving on Isle Royale. Grand Portage is an Indian Reservation on the shores of Lake Superior in Northern Minnesota. When the fur trade was in full swing, this was a major hub of activity. Today, it's a quiet town with a National Monument commemorating the fur trade, a gas station,a hotel, and a casino. It is quite literally in the middle of no where. One looses cell service a full hour before reaching Grand Portage. There is Wifi at the casino/hotel, but it's slow at best. While this is mildly unnerving at first (how would I check Facebook?!), after a couple of days, we pretty much forgot all about it, which made for a nice change of pace.
That night, we loaded our dive gear onto the boat, the Lake Superior Diver, a 38 foot Chriscraft Commander, and got everything situated. We grabbed a couple of drinks with friends before going to bed, ready for a week of diving on Isle Royale. Morning came early (the sun rises there at 4:30 AM), so early in fact that I thought my alarm didn't go off. I quickly glanced at my phone for the time and thought it said 8:45 - the boat was set to leave at 9. In reality, it was 5:45. Talk about a quick wake-up!
That foggy morning, at 8 AM, we boarded the boat, ready for our crossing to Isle Royale. The crossing itself takes only a couple of hours, but being broadsided by waves made it seem a lot longer - and made everyone just a little queesy. By noon, we were in the water on our first dive!
The first dive of the week was the wreck of the George M. Cox. Built in 1901, she ran aground near the Rock of Ages Lighthouse and sank in 1933. Ironically, I don't remember a lot about this wreck, other than it was FRIGID! I blame that on the fact I was in a dream-like state from sleeping during the crossing.
The next dive was on the America. The America was a 184 foot long, steel hulled, passenger and cargo ship that supplied Isle Royale with visitors, residents and needed supplies. She sank in June 1927 after running aground on a shallow shoal not too far from Windigo Harbor. Today, she lies in 2 (bow) - 85 (stern) feet of water and is mostly intact. At the stern, the propeller can still be seen. On this dive, we did some penetration into the wreck to see the grand staircase, the engine room, and some of the crew quarters near the bow. The engine room was the coolest. After squeezing between a wall and metal walkway, we swam around the engine. The captain of the ship had the engine operators grease everything down in order to prevent rust from a (hopeful) salvage. While probably terrible for the environment, this really helped to preserve the wreck; all of the valves still turn and the original paint is still visible. We also were able to go through some of the crews quarters near the bow of the ship - some still had sinks, bunks, and shoes strewn about. Off the port side lies a lot of broken up wreckage and numerous artifacts which are fun to find.
That night, we docked in Windigo Harbor. After dinner, we had a good time sitting with the crew (Captain Ryan and Rick) and chatting. The weather that day was much warmer than expected, but cooled off the rest of the week after the storm that rolled in overnight. Check back soon to hear more about day 2 of our trip!
In order to have posts of a manageable length, and hopefully not bore you to tears, I will be writing about each day of the trip individually.
- Meghan -