At the end of June, my wife Ashley and I went camping at Bruce Peninsula National Park. This park is at the north extreme of the Bruce Peninsula, and separates Lake Huron from Georgian Bay. The Monday was particularly brilliant, and after a morning of hiking we elected to take a boat tour to Flowerpot Island in the afternoon. This tour included viewing two of the 27 shipwrecks contained within Fathom Five National Marine Park. Ashley and I were camping at Cyprus Lake (which can be seen bottom right), and the two shipwrecks we saw were in Big Tub Harbour, which is just to the left of the lighthouse in the centre of the map. This is possible because of two companies in Tobermory which use glass bottom boats.
The first ship that we saw was the Sweepstakes. This was a two masted schooner that was built in 1867, and sank in 1896. She was carrying a cargo of coal when she ran aground on Cove Island. She was then towed to Big Tub harbour, where it was intended to try to repair her- but she sank instead. 1. The Sweepstakes is in remarkably good condition- but very little of her was salvaged- for example, timbers were not salvaged because Ontario/The Great Lakes had (has) no shortage of wood. Much remains of her deck- and it’s possible to see cargo hatches and things. The first two photos below were taken from inside the Blue Heron 8, and the Sweepstakes can be seen through the glass bottom with remarkable detail of her remaining deck timbers. The second group of two photos were taken from the upper deck, and make clear how shallow Big Tub Harbour really is, and how close to the surface and shore the wrecks are.
The City of Grand Rapids
The second ship that we came to see was the City of Grand Rapids. This was a two deck steamer, built in 1879 by Hannah, Lay & Co of Traverse City, Michigan. She was sold to a Canadian in September 1907, and then in October of that year, caught fire in Little Tub Harbour. She was then towed to Big Tub Harbour where she burned to the waterline and sank.2 This photo to the left, and many more details can be found on the amazing Great Lakes Maritime Collection. Due to the condition in which she sank, very little of the City of Grand Rapids is left, compared to the Sweepstakes. However, there is some of the steam engine and boilers left. Like with the Sweepstakes, she is barely beneath the service and is a stone’s throw from the cottages at the side of the harbour.
These shipwrecks are only part of what can be found at Fathom Five National Marine Park. Flowerpot Island is absolutely worth a day visit- there are remains of several lighthouses as well as the home that lighthouse keepers lived in before they were removed in the 1960s.