By Dave Sommers
Five members of the Saginaw Underwater Explorers spent an extended weekend in August, 2010 diving the wrecks of Lake Superiors Alger Underwater Preserve near Munising.
Members Mike Fabish, Greg Prenzler, Tim Hasting, Scot Thompson and Dave Sommers left early on a Friday morning with Tim’s 24 foot boat in tow.
After checking into the Terrace Motel, overcast skies didn’t prevent our group from launching the boat for a quick, late afternoon, dive on the Bermuda.
The Bermuda is a shallow wreck in Grand Island’s Murray Bay. The 150 foot wooden schooner sank in the spring of 1870. The top deck is just 12 feet below the water’s surface where the wreck has remained sitting upright for over 140 years. Three hatches gave access to the cargo hold, along with two companionways and the large cabin trunk near the stern. The water was a warm 68°
Saturday morning presented a light rain and fog. After a leisurely breakfast and a little shopping for batteries we headed back out. There was a stiff breeze from the northwest.
Before we went out we ran across a family at the dive shop from Swartz Creek. They couldn’t find a charter for their newer certified son. Mike volunteered to loan them a dive flag so they could dive the piers near the Munising High School. During the conversation they learned we were from Saginaw. Dad, Jack Ammerman, said he had the Scoop emailed to him and read it every month.
The first dive was on the Smith Moore, which is an early example of the wooden steam barge. Grand Island provided shelter from the wind and waves. This is the most famous shipwreck in the Pictured Rocks area. The Smith Moore was lost in the Munising East Channel on July 13, 1889 as the result of damages suffered in a collision out in Lake Superior. It sits in about 85 feet of water between Sand Point and Grand Island.
Visibility was somewhat limited to about 20 feet but it was a nice dive and you didn’t feel the thermocline until just a few feet above the deck. There were numerous hatches in the deck and a broken mast stump that. On the fantail a spindled railing was still intact along with engine components.
The group then headed to the Selvick, the newest wreck in the preserve. The wreck wasn’t as protected from the wind and waves so we decided to dive a more sheltered Manhattan which was wooden freighter. It lies in 20’-40’ of water and could be seen as soon as we splashed in. The wreck is fairly broken up. There are a large number of timbers and hull framing. The Manhattan was driven onto a reef in October of 1903.
Since we had 5 divers we dove as a group of 2 and 3.
After the Manhattan we were tired and hungry. The motel had a game room and kitchen for guests along with a barbecue. Brats were soon on the grill and the beans were simmering. A great day of diving capped off by a fine dinner.
Mike and Scot decided it was great for a night dive and ventured to the old piers. Tim stood guard in his kayak as the divers explored the 10’ depths around the large wooded pilings. A clear sky and nearly full moon greeted them as they surfaced.
Sunday dawned clear with a promise of blue skies. The wind was 10 – 15 mph that was supposed to die down.
We headed back out to the Smith Moore. Greg decided not to go as he was a little under the weather and had to drive home later in the day.
The Smith Moore was still under its marker buoy, and there were no other boats tied to it. Again the visibility was marginal, but familiarity with the wreck made for a better dive.
Off to the Selvik.
The Steven M. Selvick, is a 70' tug intentionally sunk in 1996 in 40'-60' of water. The pilothouse starts in 40 ft. of water, making this a great dive for all.
Divers have access to all areas of the tug. The pilothouse, galley, mess room, engine room, and crew quarters can all be penetrated.
The tug was built in 1915 in Cleveland, Ohio for the Great Lakes Towing Company. During her career she served on the construction of the Mackinac Bridge in 1957.
By the time the Selvick was donated to the Alger Underwater Preserve in 1994 she had been mothballed for several years and was no longer able to sail under her own power, so it was necessary to tow the tug from Sturgeon Bay to Munising.
In order to avoid polluting the lake, hundreds of gallons of fuel oil and lubricants had to be pumped out of the tug's tanks and bilges, and the interior was steam-cleaned. Miscellaneous equipment such as auxiliary engines and generators had to be removed to give divers safe access to the engine room. Volunteers from the local area and around the Midwest accomplished these jobs over the course of two years. Several members of the Saginaw Underwater Explorers spent several weekends helping out.
The Selvick was sunk June 1, 1996 some six miles north of Munising off Grand Island's Trout Point.
Our dive was great. The Selvick appeared out of the gloom at about 20’. The mooring line was attached to the stern with the tug listing to the port side at about a 45° angle. It was an easy swim with a lot to explore. Most of the hatches were open and the controls still moved in the pilothouse. Visibility was better at about 40’. While we were on the wreck a charter rafted off our boat and sent 4 divers in.
After the trip back in we hung our wet gear on clothes lines supplied by the motel.
Following dinner Greg headed back home with the boat in tow while the rest of the group played tourist and checked out some of the local waterfalls, which the area is famous for, along with some of the historical exhibits on Sand Point.
Monday started with the nicest weather of the weekend, of course as we were headed home. After a few more waterfalls we headed to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. There are a lot of exhibits on shipwrecks in the area with the most famous being the Edmund Fitzgerald. It was well worth the $13 fee, which included admission to the museum and former lighthouse keeper’s quarters and a video presentation on the Fitzgerald.
We arrived back home about 11 pm, having taken full advantage of the four day trip.