diving shipwreck

The Big Five Dive: why a team of women took on the challenge of diving 5 historic Great Lakes sites in 24 hours

For centuries, the Great Lakes have played crucial roles in our nation’s maritime history. Today, shipwrecks resting on the bottom of the lakes preserve that history for those who visit and explore them.

Last year, a team of women, including staff members from Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, took on a challenge. They decided to dive historic sites in all five Great Lakes – in a single day.

One of those dive sites was the wreck of Joseph S. Fay, a bulk freighter that sank in 1905 during a strong gale. That wreck rests within Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron. 

Check out our video to discover the team’s story and why these dives were so significant:


A NOAA diver in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary explores the wreck of Duncan City using a diver propulsion vehicle, or scooter. Scooters like these help archaeologists and divers cover more ground when investigating shipwreck sites and other areas. 

(Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)

Our introduction to Tobermory wreck diving started with the classic Sweepstakes wreck.

The Sweepstakes was a two-masted 119-foot schooner built in Burlington, Ontario, Canada in 1867. It suffered serious damage off Cove Island, not far from Tobermory, in 1885, and was towed into Big Tub Harbour in Tobermory. Unable to repair it in time, it sank in the harbour where it can be visited today. Given the shallow depth of 20 feet, it makes for an easy dive, and is also visited by snorkelers and tourists aboard glass-bottom boats.

Sunken ships and their contents are quickly taken over by sea creatures and plant-life underwater.

A large coral has grown on this terracotta Roman wine storage jar, which was made on Sicily around 275–300 AD. It was found in the shipwreck of a small Roman merchant ship which sunk in stormy weather near Levanzo. See it on display in our current‪ Storms, War & Shipwrecks‬ exhibition.

Known as ‘red gold’, coral from the Sicilian seas is highly prized for its colour varying from light pink to deep red. Coral has been harvested by divers for thousands of years for craftsmen to create beautiful jewellery and ornaments.