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First trip to Tobermory and Fathom Five National Park September 27, 2008

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
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My last dive trip of 1983 was from September 16th to 18th to Tobermory, Ontario, which is home to Canada’s only underwater national park, Fathom Five, home of numerous shipwrecks. To give this an historical context, it was 10 days after the Soviet Union shot down Korean Airlines flight 007, and the first day of diving on the Saturday was the day Vanessa Williams became the first African-American to be crowned Miss America. The following weekend, a Soviet military officer named Stanislav Petrov narrowly averted accidental full-scale nuclear war by correctly interpreting a warning of incoming American missiles as a computer error. Ah, those were the days!

I’ve been to Fathom Five National Park six times now, most recently last August, and it is one of the two best spots in Ontario for diving. The other is the St. Lawrence River between Kingston and Brockville.

So it was a Friday in mid-September, when the water is still quite warm (relatively speaking), that we drove up from London to Tobermory, camping overnight in Cyprus Lake Provincial Park, now part of Bruce Peninsula National Park.

The first dive was in Big Tub Harbour on the Sweepstakes. This wreck is an excellent beginner wreck although today access is more restricted than what it was in the eighties. At a maximum depth of 15 feet, the wreck can actually be seen from space! If you followed the link to Google Maps you can see the outline of the ship just to the right of the discoloured water with the bow pointing to about 5 o’clock. The ship lies on a sandy bottom with some silt, rocks, debris and a few weeds. Even with a starting PSI of 2150, my buddy Howard Van Stone and I stayed under 40 minutes and still came up with half our air.

Later that day we went to Flowerpot Island for a “cliff dive”. The island has unique rock formations and the underwater landscape there and in much of the rest of the area is quite interesting. Personally though I prefer shipwrecks but at least Howard and I set a new personal depth record of 55 feet.

On Sunday we dove the James C. King Shipwreck near Russell Island, which is also reputed to be the location of the wreck of Robert de LaSalle’s Ship, Le Griffon. The King was my early favourite for wreck dives. At Fathom Five, even in the eighties, you had to purchase a permit to visit the park. The pamphlet they gave you mentioned a spot at a depth of 60 feet where you can swim under the hull. I think the spot still exists but it’s no longer mentioned. I imagine they think it’s too dangerous now as it’s just big enough for a diver to get through. This dive maxed out a 90 feet, with a bottom time of 20 minutes.

The final dive was at the Grotto, also known as the Caves. The Grotto is a nice little dive, maximum depth is about 30 feet although nearby it drops into much greater depths. Two separate short tunnels, the more northerly one being much wider than the other, provide access to the grotto, which can also be accessed by swimmers from the shore. Caution is required to avoid one from landing on you. Howard and I were out of the water a bit before 4pm and we headed back to London.

Later today I’m off to Big Bay Point to help with an open water class.



1. Return Scuba Diving Trip to Fathom Five « Chronicle of an older diver - October 1, 2008

[…] So other than the Wetmore, it was pretty much a repeat of our previous trip. […]


2. Diving the Tobermory Caves « Chronicle of an older diver - December 4, 2008

[…] divers of all skill levels and experience. Unlike the first dive of the day, the Niagara II, I had been to the Grotto before, 23 years earlier in 1983. The Niagara II was still afloat at that time, so diving it wasn’t […]


3. Tobermory - 3 more wrecks « Chronicle of an older diver - January 20, 2009

[…] time we were off to the James C. King, for the first time in 21 years for me, having been on it in 1983, 1984 and 1986. The water at depth was suprisingly warm at 13C (55F), compared to the 7C I recorded […]


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