Great Lakes Shipwrecks: a
ISBN 1-883056-13-6, hardcover, large format 8 1/2 x 11, 112 pages,
450 gorgeous photos. $30.00
I have often declared that the Great Lakes possess the best
shipwrecks in the world. The purist might take exception to this
statement by observing that I have not dived everywhere in the
world. The purist would be correct. I have dived on shipwrecks along
the eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada, in the St.
Lawrence River and Seaway, in Bermuda, in the Caribbean, in the
United Kingdom (England, Ireland, and Scotland), in Australia, and
in the South Pacific. This may seem like a broad representation, but
in reality there is more of the world in which I have not dived than
there is of the world in which I have. Nonetheless, I maintain that
my claim is valid because I have read about and seen photographs of
wrecks in the rest of the world, in books and magazines. The
combination of my own experiences and these vicarious ramblings has
led me to the conclusion that is declared in the first sentence.
What is more in contention in my declaration is: what do I mean by
"best"? From my primary perspective as an underwater explorer, I
define "best" as "the most spectacular to behold." Compared to aged
saltwater wrecks, which have been demolished by deep ocean swells
and by the natural deterioration that has resulted from the
corrosive briny environment in which they sank, freshwater wrecks
possess far more recognizable form. Most ocean wrecks are compacted,
with little structure remaining and with few identifiable features.
Teredoes and other wood-boring organisms have eaten the exposed
wooden hulls and planks; ferrous metal beams and plates have been
reduced to rusty, brittle components; the parts that abide are
thickly encrusted with marine fouling organisms such as barnacles,
sea anemones, hydroids, coral, kelp, and the like. By contrast,
until the recent invasion by zebra mussels, Great Lakes wrecks may
be so "clean" that the grain in the wood is clearly discernible.
From a secondary viewpoint as a photographer, I quantify "best" as
"the most photogenic." Wrecks that are fundamentally intact (by
comparison to their seawater brethren) offer a great deal more
subject matter to capture on film. By contrast, interesting photos
can be difficult to obtain on wrecks that exist merely as flattened
junk heaps that are completely festooned with organic growth. But in
the Great Lakes, shipwrecks are sometimes like museum pieces,
exhibiting portholes, deadeyes, gauges, chinaware, legible name
boards, even ornate figureheads. These are attractions that will
entice any shipwreck photographer worth his "salt."
From a tertiary standpoint as an historian, some of the "best"
wrecks are those that were yesteryear's most tragic. Their
fascination lies in their sad sagas of shipwreck and survival,
dramatic rescues, and the melancholy circumstances of impending
death. Furthermore, many Great Lakes wrecks are historic by dint of
their age and methods of construction. The diversity of shipwreck
types is clearly substantial, so that anyone interested in the
structure of vessels and their evolution will find a wealth of
material to study.
The shipwrecks depicted in the pages of this volume are the ones
that have impressed me the most, in accordance with the criteria
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