Manta Divers, October, 2015 Our Munising Adventure
”It’s too far,” It’s too cold,” “The wrecks are too deep.” These are all objections I’ve heard at the thought of diving in Lake Superior. Good thing for us we didn’t listen and finally made the pilgrimage to dive in Lake Superior.
During spring planning back in March, the group decided to dive at Copper Harbor and find thousands of dollars’ worth of agates. That plan went south, however, when we discovered that the only dive operation in the area was belly up. Not to be denied a Lake Superior adventure, we set our sights on wreck diving in Munising, MI. What an incredible bonus that turned out to be.
Our caravan left Kenosha at 6 am Thursday, August 6 and made a leisurely journey up the state. We arrived in Munising 5 ½ hrs. later, in time to sample the UP’s most famous dish, the pastie. We gathered at Muldoon’s Pasties and Gifts, which turned out to be just blocks from the dive operation. In case you didn’t know, a pastie is a pastry crust filled with meat and potatoes. It was a staple of the miners who liked to fortify themselves with a hearty meal that did not require cutlery. Muldoon’s is easy to find in Munising: Just look for Sasquatch.(I guess Sasquatch likes pasties too!)
Stomachs satisfied, we trekked over to Ship Wreck Tours to check in and get the lay of the land. We completed our releases, took a look at our boat and were briefed as to the schedule. We were to be on the dock with our tanks and kits at 1pm to dive our first two wrecks on Friday. This late start the first day, followed by a morning dive the next allowed us to leave our gear on the boat overnight, saving the hassle of transferring everything back and forth. Everyone was excited. Now to get settled at the motel.
We are very fond of mom and pop operations, so Angel Falls Motel, located a few miles south of Munising on Hyw. 28, was a logical choice. The rooms were clean, comfortable, and equipped with a small refrigerator. There were also laundry facilities on site, which was especially appreciated, since we all prefer to put on warm, dry suits before our dives! We spent the balance of the day touring several of Munising’s water falls. At the end of our day, we got together outside our rooms to share libations, cook snacks on our portable gas grill and play a few rounds of Snake Oil and generally talk about our exciting day ahead.
The boat was comfortable but not overly roomy. The Captain Pete was excellent and delivered very thorough dive briefings that not only described the wreck, but gave the history. The
assistant/tender was very helpful and made entries and exits so much easier. The first thing that struck me about Lake Superior was the incredible visibility. The cooler water does not make a hospitable environment for algae that makes for murky dives closer to home. The second thing that really knocked my socks off was the condition of the wrecks. They are almost in the same shape now as they were when they sunk and unlike the Lake Michigan wrecks, there was not a zebra mussel to be found.
The visibility was excellent ranging from 20 to 40 ft. Our first dive was the Steven Selvick a 71 ft. tug boat in 65ft of water. She is an outstanding wreck that is very intact. If this wreck was in Lake Michigan a diver would not know if it was wooden out metal for all the zebra mussels. Outside of some particulate, the wreck looked like it sank last month. It’s been there since 1996. Captain Pete told us that the water is so cold Zebra Mussels can’t exist. Oh, about the cold. Most of us were diving in dry suits but we had 4 in the group that were diving wet. They thought that it wasn’t that bad. (Must be a dry cold.)
Our second dive of the day was the Herman Hettler. Measuring at 200 ft. long and 35ft. wide she went down in November 1926 on a big sandstone rock reef. When I say BIG rocks we are talking the size of large houses. The Hettler lays scattered along the bottom in 20-30 ft. of clear water. The boiler sits in 25ft. with many of the other mechanicals strewn about it. With the huge rock wall, it felt like diving an ancient ruin. It was neat to peer into the cracks and crevices looking for crayfish and snails.
As I mentioned earlier, we were scheduled for 2 dives on Saturday morning so we were able to leave our gear right on the boat. Smart, Mama Duck! The first dive of the day was the Smith Moore, a 260 ft. masted steamer that sank in the channel in July of 1889. For being down there 126 years the wreck is in very good condition. She is in 100-110 ft. of water with the deck at about 80 ft. Sean was my dive buddy and we were able to dive the entire circumference of the ship. I was most impressed by the detail that still exists in the railing around the aft of the ship. This is the “must dive” of the trip. After a surface interval that was loaded with exciting conversation we headed over to our last dive of the trip: the Bermuda. A shallow wreck, the Bermuda’s deck is at just 12 ft. under the water. In fact, we had to wait a bit to hook to the mooring because a glass bottom tour boat was checking her out. Beautifully intact, divers would never guess that it’s been down there 145 years, having sunk in 1870. There was an unsuccessful attempt to raise her in 1883 but the chains slipped and dropped her where she sits today.
We spent the rest of the day site seeing. We tried to get on one of the sightseeing boats but they were sold out so we optioned to check out Miners Castle at miners Point. From the point, you could see the painted sandstone bluffs and beautiful shore lines. While the rest of us took a long hike from the point overlooking painted Rocks to the Lake Superior shore, Mike opted instead meet the group at the bottom with the dive van. Given the length of the trek and the uneaven terrain, Mike chose wisely. The rest of us enjoyed the journey, though and refreshed ourselves int he lake at the end.
We capped off the adventure with a potluck meal at Wander Wheels campground nearby. One of our divers, Sean and his wife Karen graciously invited the group over to their motor home for a cookout. Off we went with our steaks, salads and snacks to share laughs and reminisce about the two days’ dives. Hats off to Sean and Karen for hosting a lovely evening. Good folks, good food and an evening with friends was the finishing touch to a wonderful trip.
In Other News............
There is still time to get on Team Manta's trip to beautiful Grenada! Call the shop today to sign up.
Congratulations to new Advanced Open Water diver, Tom Ambro, and new Open Water Divers, Jason Patt, Susie Margoni, Tyler West, Susan Trost, Sullivan Kuhfahl,Scott Wagner, and Mike Nurmi. Great Job!
I'm looking for a couple of artists to design our trip T-shirts for Grenada and Belize. Please submit a sharp line drawing that is approximately 8x11 that would be in one or 2 colors. The artist whose design is chosen will receive a free T-shirt ! Feel free to share this challenge with any of your artist friends! The Deadline is October 31.