Photo Courtesy: Isle Royal National Parks

About the Diving

Vital Information

Location Isle Royale, MI (SW of Thunder Bay, Lake Superior).

Water Temperature 60° F at the Surface, cooler at depth.

Visibility 40' average, 70' maximum.

Types of Diving Available

  • Open Water Diving
  • Wreck Diving
Underwater Shot of the Maderia Wreck, Lake Superior

Photo Credit: Elkman

Until fairly recently, the Great Lakes (including Lake Superior) were one of North America's busiest highways. As a highway they saw their share of accidents, and one of the more-significant hazards (Isle Royale, which we will be visiting soon) bears the remains of several such accidents today.

Where the wrecked ships lay now, under the still water of the giant lake, they tell (silently) the story of the occasional strength and unrelenting violence of the water above and the unforgivingness of the surrounding rocks, which they were originally broken upon.

The state of the remains varies from wreck to wreck. In some places the wrecks bear sizable pieces (or virtually all) of the original ship (for example, the bridge of the Chester A. Congdon, the whole of the SS America, and sections of the Cumberland). Some offer decks, rooms, and hallways that, much like a ghost town, preserve the settings that the rooms' inhabitants once lived amidst.

Some of the ships, though (like, for example, the Geroge M. Cox), are wrecked spectacularly, broken and strewn like LEGO bricks across the basin of Lake Superior. In some places their parts are distributed so widely that wreck sites intertwine, forming a sort of underwater traffic snarl that never resolves itself. The dislocated gears, engine parts, and propellers protrude from hulls crumpled so severely (such as with the Algoma), that envisioning the vessel whole sometimes requires imagination.

Image from Isle Royale

Photo Courtesy: Rudy Roesken

Artifacts within- and near some of the wrecks tell stories of a different nature, with a different cast. Glass wheat bottles, hand-painted china (even bath tubs), and other artifacts remain onsite--in some cases, close to a century later, telling the stories of the recipients of freight, owners of luggage, and artisans and manufacturers (some of the bottles, for example, originated from a short-lived bottling operation) from which the artifacts originated.

All of this, in varying depths Lake Superior's waters (approximately 60 degrees at the surface, cooling to around 40 during descent), lying in water clear enough to allow boats to provide surface tours of the SS America, stands on display for the curious and the adventurous. This scene is what we will visit the next time we dive Isle Royale.

About the Site

Rock of Ages Lighthouse, Lake Superior

Photo Courtesy: Dave/ Jacque Olson

Isle Royale is the largest natural Island in Lake Superior. Situated between Minnesota's Arrowhead Region and Michigan's Upper peninsula, it has proved to be a dangerous obstacle for ships navigating the lake. Isle Royale (with its 400 surrounding islets) is known to have caused 25 shipwrecks.

The island is part of a rift zone that formed billions of years ago, throughout North America. Isle Royale the northern ridge of a structure resembling a geological horst that is believed to have been pushed upwards as it moved along a fault line. The ridge (and its twin--the Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula--on the southern edge of this structure) was actually once part of the basin of Lake superior, formed of basaltic- and other volcanic rocks that the rifting process. As a result of its geologic history, the island, its islets, and the boulders and rock outcroppings that lie underwater pose a significant threat to any vessel that passes by.

Several lighthouses (including Rock of Ages Lighthouse, pictured) are positioned on the Island to alert ships of the island's presence during periods of low visibility.

This Trip Includes

  • Four days of diving,on the Lake Superior Diver
  • Included are all tank fills.
  • Lodging accommodations (on boat).
  • All meals and snacks while on charter.
  • Time for self-guided hikes on the beautiful Isle Royale.
  • Use of comprehensive and pertinent Isle Royale-related Dive Guides and wreck details.
  • Pre-dive site tutorials and coaching
  • Trip cost $895.00 There may be a fuel surcharge depending on gas prices at time of departure date.

Basic Itinerary

Diver in the water near Isle Royale, Lake Superior

Photo Courtesy: Dave/ Jacque Olson

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