June 06, 2009

Great 3D photo of the Material Barge Click on the picture to see more on the Indiana DNR website

I was itching to get back out on Lake Michigan to do some more diving as I have not had the chance to get back out there in a while and after completing my advanced open water certification, I wanted to get more practice under my belt instead of the quarry diving that I have been doing recently. I got with the second half of a weekend charter that was taking people out to some shipwrecks off the shore of Chicago.  There were 12 people on this boat and at a 100 bucks a pop there were doing quite well for themselves that weekend, BUT boats fall apart all the time and they are not the cheapest machines to operate so all in all I am sure there was quite the overhead to operate this. ANYWAY, it was nice to get out on the lake and get into some 3 foot swells as I giant strided off the boat and into the warm 65-70 degree August Lake Michigan waters.

The First wreck we went to visit was the Material Service barge which is resting at a depth of only 35 ft.  This was a service barge carrying stones. The ship measured 239 ft in length and it was a self unloading barge specifically made to transport gravel to docks on the Chicago river. She foundered in 1936 in a storm in 35 ft of water.  According to the crew a large wave came over the deck and the crew got out of their bunks and were able to abandon ship except for the captain who lost his life on the barge.

I got to see the wreck itself in the 20ft of viz but the water clarity could have been better. I went through the railing rebar and steel planking which gave a little bit of a light penetration feeling yet there was always an escape route if needed.

We got out of the water with no incident and went over to Visit the Tacoma.

The tugboat Tacoma was built in 1894 at Benton Harbor, Michigan, by Edward W. Heath.
At 12:30 p.m., on November 4, 1929, the Tacoma was three quarters of as mile south of the 68th Street crib, towing two scows from Chicago to South Chicago when she sprang a large leak. Captain C. Shaoffer had only five minutes to send a distress signal of four blasts on his whistle before the old tug sank. The crew of six barely had time to unleash the towing cable and climb aboard one of the scows before the tug went down. A nearby tug, the Andrew Green, took over the tow of the two scows, and the Tacoma's crew were transferred to the Jackson Park Coast Guard surf boat, which had come to the rescue upon hearing the distress signal.
Later that day, the Jackson Park Coast Guard crew marked the Tacoma's position with a buoy, but it was later decided that she was too old to make raising her worthwhile. At the time of her sinking, the Tacoma was the oldest of the thirty tugs working in Chicago.
( Research by Henry Schwenk )


Research by Henry Schwenk
We get down to a depth of 30ft and this wreck is pretty badly broken up with her boiler and other machinery still noticeable. There were some large perch swimming around but that was about it.   She is interesting to visit but I recommend going when the viz is better so you can see the artifacts more. 

Map of the Tacoma Shipwreck Chicago
All in all it was a fun day on the great lakes and I was glad I got the chance to get on the lake and get some diving done!

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