May 12, 2014

The Grace Shannon's bow section with double anchors side to side

I was back and forth with diving this weekend as I had some other tasks to complete but I decided to come out with my dive buddy Mike Apke and head over to dive with Shipwreck Explorers with Jitka, and Dave Sutton on a sunny Saturday in Milwaukee.  This was set up to be an afternoon dive so we geared up and left the harbor in good time so we can make our journey 16 miles off of shore to the Grace Shannon.  The buoy of the Grace was submerged but at a depth of 50ft to the submerged buoy jug, you could see the a clear white container from the surface.   WOW that viz is going to be fantastic!!!  I wasn't looking forward to the sub 40 degree water temp but I was instantly amped up to see how clear the VIZ was in the water!!  We geared up with extra layers under our drysuits, decompression gas, tight fitting seals, and a good focus to detail.   The Grace Shannon was a Schooner 141 ft. X 26 ft. which collided with a tugboat called the "favorite" on her bow port quarter and sunk taking one life with her back in 1877.  The Grace Shannon's Max Depth can reach 180-185ft but I stayed at a depth of 165 ft. since this was my first dive of the year, I had my regulator's serviced, and the water temp was around 36 degrees.  Mike and I ran a bottom time of 15 minutes so it was a brief visit to the Shannon but it was a great experience and what an amazing wreck to see. The Grace was almost perfectly intact with both anchors on her bow and the damage done to her bow port quarter that brought her down to her final resting place.

Grace Shannon starboard side midship looking back towards the stern.
We descend down the line onto the stern of the Grace and as we got to about 100ft, the wrecks hazy silhouette started to appear with a eerie cold feeling setting in as we descended down to around 150 ft.   The increasingly vivid visibility of the intact Grace Shannon at around appeared clear as day at her final resting place in surrounded by some debris and a barren desert of silt on flat cold Lake Michigan bottom.
Grace Shannon cargo hold
Grace Shannon with her buckled and damaged port side structure
We moved forward towards the bow of the ship making a observing her cargo holds and deck planking in almost pristine condition.  We eventually noticed the buckled damage that the Tug titled "The Favorite" caused on her port side which left a gash and planking to buckle on her deck.  Mike and I continued to move towards the bow and she still had both of her large anchors on deck ready to be deployed which was rather interesting to see. We continued around her starboard side and back to the mooring line to start our ascent back up to the surface.  Mike was running trimix on his computer and I was on air on charts so we followed different decompression schedules and eventually made it back onto the Molly V with no complications except for frozen hands due to using 5mm gloves and my feet were pretty cold...Like very cold!!!.  I started to shiver half way through my decompression schedule so I stayed on O2 for a few more minutes as an added safety precaution.  Mike Mentioned how freaking cold her was from breathing the trimix and discovered the benefit to using argon or air in his drysuit rather than trimix.  What a great dive an a beautiful shipwreck to see that is not to far away from Chicago.
Grace Shannon stern starboard quarter

After an hour drive back towards shore, we made it to the Milwaukee Carferry which is a 330 foot steel train ferry that brought railroad cars back and forth from Milwaukee to Grand Haven in Michigan which helped free up traffic coming from and to Chicago.  On October 22, 1929 ran into a storm bound for grand Haven loaded with lumber, food, bath appliances, and automobiles.  I am not sure exactly how the car ferry sank but from what I gather the Gail she was fighting through in 1929 made railroad cars come loose inside her haul structure.  One or more of these rail cars crashed through the sea gate providing a hole for water to come in over the stern to bring her down to her current resting place
Entering the Milwaukee Carferry shipwreck
Mike stayed on the Molly V so Leo, Ellery, and I went to make an attempt to look for a way to get into the kitchen of the Car ferry.  I have been on this wreck twice so this is my third time on this wreck.  Leo and Ellery explained to me that they have been on the wreck a lot and want to see if they can locate any other entrances that will take them to the kitchen galley quarters. We dive in and the water temp is around 39 degrees. NICE..a little warmer than the frigid 35-36 degree temps on the Grace.  We make our descent and come up onto the Milwaukee's bow and collapsing mid ship wreckage.  Leo and Ellery make attempts to enter the wreck but come back out and soon after each penetration attempt.  Eventually I called the dive as my air was running low so I made my ascent and soon after Leo and Ellery followed me up. We did not find the way to the galley but we all had a blast on these dives, with Jitka, and Dave on the Molly V.  I am looking forward to my next dive trip with my dive buddies up in Presque Isle to dive some of the most amazing shipwrecks in the world!!

Milwaukee Carferry broken rail car


Bow section of the Grace Shannon with her two anchors

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