Sunday, January 13 – 2008
10:30 – 13:45
Roads: Dry / Clear
Area: Welland Canal
Vehicle: Black Sunfire
Weather: Overcast, Cold
Trail Conditions: Wet & Muddy
Hikers: Tori, Wolf, Chuck
Plan: Find Land-Locked Shipwreck
A bit of background on this shipwreck. A few years ago there was a re-print of an article in a magazine called “Niagara This Week” by Chris Irwin, which portrayed a photo of a shipwreck. The article states he was driving down an old road in Thorold he did not know existed and ended up at the Old Seaway property. Irwin followed the road past the old streetcar abutments, and eventually found a shipwreck in the Old Welland Canal. No other useful information was found. The St. Lawrence Seaway has closed a lot of the roads in the area and the details in the article were sketchy at best.
At one point, Tori and I visited the Lock 3 museum in an attempt to find details about this wreck but there were none. All attempts to contact the author of the article failed.
Tori, Chuck and I made several excursions to this site to reveal negative results. However until now, the canal system was full of water. This time of year, however, the canal is empty and we have the opportunities to explore the area with significantly less danger and very low or non-existent water levels. Hopefully we will find the wreck today.
10:30 – We started our journey by checking out the old streetcar abutments by Walker Industries. The area was sadly still flooded and we decided to head for the west corner Lakeview Cemetery and began at the far west corner. We parked Chucks black sunfire and geared up and headed towards the now empty flood pond behind Walker Industries. We were pleasantly surprised to see the water levels were very low at the old hydro facility, and the flood pond almost completely drained.
10:50 We came to the edge of the old lock to see half a dozen cars piled up, now rusted from their time spent underwater. The old locks were spectacular to see. We followed the locks to find a small pond area that was now also empty. Tori with her rubber bots on was the only one able to venture into that area and explore. She noted that in some areas, a thick, black, oil like sludge was sighted. Evidence of the contamination of this area from the ships passing through here for over a hundred years. Tori did notice some old pilings from docks which once stood in the area as well as some antique bottles.
11:30 We ended up at the base of an old lock right, near an overturned car. We stopped for a few photographs then proceeded to climb up the side of the lock and follow it along to the other end. To our surprise: there we found the shipwreck.
Formerly sitting in about 10m of water, the ship sat facing south east in about 1-2m of water. We could see all the parts such as the prop-shaft, boiler cradle (boiler long removed), decking, and the shape of the wreck. We got some photos and decided to go around to the other side of the lock for closer inspection. The ship sat at a 45 degree angle across the locks, almost blocking them completely.
12:00 We arrived at the base of the old lock to find the shipwreck looking back at us. We grabbed a few more photos and observed the wreck. The main deck looks to have fallen into the hull, albeit still intact. Chuck found a rubber boot, but it was a modern rubber boot and we decided to leave it on the bottom. The wind was cold and blew directly towards us. Sadly the frigid waters prevented us from getting a closer look at the wreck. Perhaps in a drysuit or wetsuit before the canal is refilled.
12:35 We began the hike back to the car.
12:40 We felt a shift in the wind and now could smell the odor from the nearby dump at Walker Industries and as well the rotting kelp from the water as most of the area was now not submersed. We crossed back across the drained pond and Chuck stopped to investigate some of the old bee bottle necks Tori had seen earlier, but most of them were relatively new bottles.
Chuck was happy that today he was able to set foot on that island off in the distance which he wanted to explore in summer when the entire area was covered in 5-10m of water.
13:00 we arrived at the base of another large lock set, normally full to the top with flowing water, now subdued from the lack of flow. We stood on the old piled up cars and grabbed some photos and examined the vehicles. Some were fairly new with disc breaks and front-wheel drive motors, others were very, very old with a huge v8 engine in it. After some more photos we climbed back out of the lock and headed back towards the car.
13:45 We arrived back at the car, parked in the cemetery and headed for home. Wolf wore his faded glory boots, gaiters, blue insulated jumpsuit, black hat and goggles. Tori wore her rubber boots, black pants, purple turtleneck with beige hat and winter parka. Chuck wore his winter boots, black nylon pants and blue bingo-hall shirt with beige britches jacket. We were all very excited about the find. We need to find more about this wreck, how it got here, were it was build, and how old it is. Sadly we can only safely get to this site during the winter when the canal area is empty. We could go in the area in scuba but it may be very bad visibility and dangerous current in this location.
I would guess by the location of the shipwreck that it may have drifted to this location over the years and got stuck somehow where it currently lay. What a fantastic find!