I just returned from a dive trip with Mel Clark to the wrecks of Presque Isle which is near Rogers City, Michigan in the northern part of Lake Huron. I flew into Detroit airport and then drove about 4 hours north to stay in Rogers City for the week. We had mostly good weather with only one day that we didn’t dive.
Mel is an expert on the wrecks at Presque Isle and wrote a great article for Advanced Diver Magazine that provides a lot of background on the area and the dives. (NB: Mel was also my instructor for Cave CCR and my MOD3/Hypoxic Rebreather course at Eagles Nest cave). We did all of our diving with Greg Such from Shipwreck Adventures on the Double Trouble. It is a great boat for technical diving and Greg understands the unique requirements for this type of diving.
The diving is simply superb and the wrecks are in my favorite depth which is 175-200 feet deep. It is deep enough that they don’t get a lot of divers but it isn’t so deep that the decompression obligation skyrockets. It is truly amazing to see wooden ships that sank in the mid-to-late 1800s and yet are still so well preserved. This is due to the fresh water, the low temperatures, and the depth.
The bottom temperature was typically about 40F with a couple thermoclines on the way back up with the last decompression stop at 20 feet at about 64F. Our dives were typically in the 90-120 minute runtime range.
The photography is all wide-angle with a combination of on-board lighting, off-board lighting, and natural light photos. Mel and I worked together with fellow diver Jack to come up with a plan for each wreck on who was going to take what pictures and who was going to light different areas of the ship.
I’ll spend the next week or so writing a post for each of the wrecks we visited and then I will wrap it up with some of my thoughts and experiences on the equipment I relied on to dive at these depths in the lower temperatures. I hope you will enjoy the photos and the stories for each of these magnificent wrecks.
The first wreck on the agenda is the Defiance…
I won’t spend a lot of time giving the background on these wrecks since they are already so well documented but I will provide a brief background so readers don’t need to search for the basics.
The Defiance was a twin-masted wooden schooner built in 1848 in Ohio and was 115 feet long and had a beam of 26 feet.
On October 20, 1854, the Defiance was carrying a load of corn and wheat and sailing at night in the fog heading south to Detroit and Buffalo, New York. That same night, the Audubon was headed north for Chicago with a load of iron railroad track. At 1:30am on October 21st, the Defiance collided with the Audubon’s mid-section, cutting a hold deep in the hull. The Audubon sank quickly but the Defiance carried on for a bit and finally sank a few miles away.
Amazingly, the crews of both ships survived. Can you imagine how cold the water must have been in mid-October in northern Lake Huron?
Also remember that this was long before radar and modern technology existed and fog was a factor in many of the wrecks.
The Defiance is a nice wreck since it is only 115 feet long and easy to cover the wreck and make a couple trips around the site before heading up for decompression. The highlights are the mast, the jib boom resting on the intact bowsprit, the unusual bow construction and scrollwork, and a chain locker located at the stern. Like all wooden wrecks in this area, they are covered in mussels.
Advanced Diver Magazine article by Mel Clark
Shipwreck Explorers Defiance description
NOAA Thunder Bay Defiance Wreck
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