Exotic Ontario: Wreck diving in Tobermory

Posted: 09/26/2011 in all marine news

Dennis Bock – 

Kurt’s wife, Samantha, stayed up top and leafed through What to Expect When You’re Expecting while the rest of us slipped back in time to Oct. 25, 1898. It was an easy wreck dive — my first, in fact — and not even a dive, technically speaking, but a full-suited snorkelling expedition in the cold waters of Georgian Bay, just off the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula.

In that one small regard Samantha and I may have had something in common. I wasn’t really sure what to expect either.

On the final leg of my return passage from Manitoulin Island that morning, less than two hours north on the Chi-Cheemaun car ferry and home to the marvellous Red Lodge Resort on Lake Manitou, the outer islands of the peninsula, ringed by shimmering bands of turquoise and lime-green, rose from the surface like some miniature Caribbean archipelago.

The northern extreme of the Niagara Escarpment is home to 34 species of orchids, several types of insect-eating plants and the bonsai-like cedars, some as old as 700 years, that cling defiantly to the peninsula’s north-eastern cliffs.

All this and more makes the area a naturalist’s dream; though on any given day in the high months of summer the naturalists, like those diminutive trees, will find themselves seriously dwarfed by an altogether different breed of enthusiast.

Fathom Five National Marine Park, established in 1987, is Canada’s oldest national marine park and famous among wreck divers from around the world. The park covers an area of roughly 130 square kilometres of surface water and contains 21 shipwrecks, many of which are within easy reach of the weekend snorkeller.

Other dives, as deep as 46 metres, will test the skills of a seasoned pro. Adding to the abundance of wrecks and the exceptionally clear water is the relative scarcity of the zebra mussels that plague the Great Lake system.

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