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  1. #1
    RBW Member MICHAL will become famous soon enough MICHAL will become famous soon enough MICHAL will become famous soon enough MICHAL's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Isle Royale trip report

    Isle Royale trip report

    On August 8th, I joined three other CCR divers for a 5 day trip to Isle Royale to dive the deeper tech wrecks on the North end of the island. Isle Royale is a national park that is located in Lake Superior twenty miles off the North East shore of Minnesota, and approximately 50 miles off the shores of Ontario Canada on Lake Superior. The island is approximately 50 miles long by 9 miles wide, totally primitive outside of the South and North end Ranger stations. Most travelers come to this island by boat to hike the trails, or fish the many reefs and shoals that created so many nice shipwrecks. There are two charter, aside from Ron Benson who runs the Deep Thought which is exclusively CCR divers.

    The wrecks we focused on were: Emperor Stern section, Congdon Bow and Stern, Kamloops, Monarch, and America. A brief description of each; Emperor is a 525 foot long steel bulk freighter depths on stern 100 - 165 ffw - sank in 1947, very intact with standing stern mast, crew cabins with artifacts, easily accessible engine room and lots of penetration, Congdon (broken into two sections bow - stern two separate dives) 532 foot long steel bulk freighter sank 1918, Bow in 60-120 ffw very intact and great for photography - all cabins are easily accessible however artifacts are deep inside lower bow section and difficult to penetrate - Stern starts very shallow however you are only swimming down steep angle of cargo holds until 150' ffw when you reach the stern cabin to 210 at fantail. The Congdon stern is very interesting with mostly collapsed cabins, however the engine room, boiler room are very intact and able to penetrate - artifacts include galley items - point of interest is the stern hit bottom so hard it drove the rudder right through the fantail, and the ships double wheel with rudder indicator sit prominently atop the stern cabins. Monarch 259 foot long wooden packet ship sank 1908 - drove straight into a palisade at north end of island, the engines were salvaged and it is busted up, but very interesting massive wood structures and lots of unique artifacts strewn about , depth approximately 80 ffw. Kamloops 257 foot long Canaler (built to fit maximum size of canals at date) carried variety of cargo, sank 1927, depths 180 - 270 ffw. Kamloops is king at Isle Royale with an eclectic cargo of everything from pipe, wire fence, cases of toothpaste, leather shoes, tractor seats, etc, etc, and you can't miss the cargo hold full of cases of candy Life Savers that are spilling out. This ship has almost all of the original artifacts in place, so it is eye popping to swim by a beautiful ships wheel, binnacle, running lights, engine room, galley...The wreck lays on its starboard side, but allows much to see and penetrate. At the south end of the island are several wrecks, but the namesake wreck is the America a 183 foot steel packet / passenger boat that sank in a narrow channel in 1928 with its bow only 3 feet under and the stern sits at about 75 ffw. This is a great wreck to penetrate, and although the artifacts are long gone, there is much structure to cabins, details, nice engine room, etc. and after all the long deco hangs it is nice to do a shallow non-deco dive.

    The charter boat Deep Thought is a 42' aluminum cruiser with a wide beam so it is very spacious, and though it is a late 60's boat it is clean and very comfortable with newly installed bunks, a nice dining and galley, full head, and I like the fly bridge for watching scenery and relaxing post dive. The boat is equipped with two sets of banked gas for drysuit inflation, and topping off trimix, and the compressor sat idle the entire trip as we planned to bring two sets of diluent / oxygen cylinders. It is so relaxing to dive a rebreather and not have to listen to a compressor droning away post dive. Although you can dive your style of gas management, I would follow the captains advice as he has twenty years of diving the island and got into rebreathers due to the gas fill hassle...so he has the techniques dialed in. Plan to eat well as all the food is fresh prepared, and they don't skimp on quality or portions. The boat has a generator and we had all the time we needed to charge our lights, and suit heater batteries. At night the boat shuts down the generator to run on batteries as the island is a wilderness area and has noise restrictions. The boat regularly takes 4 passengers, a captain and a crew so there was plenty of space, but I hear that you may ask for 5 divers - we had no trouble filling our boat spaces.

    We spent one day hiking the island, which has rustic trails but well marked and the topography is up and down or very hilly. We did not see any moose this trip, but they are there. You can take short hikes and see abandoned copper mines, light houses, or fishing camps. It is hard to pull yourself away from the shipwrecks, but it is worth a day on shore to explore. Since this is a national park, there are a lot of rules to minimize noise or interaction with other visitors, and is definitely a take pictures only destination, and not take anything as the rangers actively patrol and visit the boats. The only inconvenience I did not like was that the charter boats have to wait until 9:00 pm before they are allowed to us any of the park docks, and if fishermen or sailboats fill up the dock then you have to anchor in a bay. I was told that there are pay showers on the north and south end ranger stations, but we were too busy diving and hiking to make the trip and nobody really minded as we had unusually warm surface water and jumped in each day to cool off.

    Some things to keep in mind is that on a liveaboard to Isle Royale, there are no resources, so if you do not bring it with you then you go without. Our group planned ahead to organize backups so we did not bring too much of any one thing. Ron has some good suggestions and information sheets that he provides you with to help plan, but he also reminds you with emails not to bring excessive gear. This is a dry gloves only location, and make sure your dry suit, and hood is in top notch condition as the bottom water temperatures are in the low 40's F, and I was told there are typically no thermoclines until 10 - 20 feet but we had unusually warm water down to 40-50 feet. Some of the guys were talking about bringing scooters, but did not think it was worth taking up the deck space as the wrecks are easy to swim and no currents.

    I'm already planning my trip to Isle Royale for next season.

    Best Regards MICHAL
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    Last edited by Curt Bowen; 10th September 2010 at 00:45.

  2. #2
    CCR Diva scubagrunt is a glorious beacon of light scubagrunt is a glorious beacon of light scubagrunt is a glorious beacon of light scubagrunt is a glorious beacon of light scubagrunt is a glorious beacon of light scubagrunt is a glorious beacon of light scubagrunt is a glorious beacon of light scubagrunt is a glorious beacon of light scubagrunt is a glorious beacon of light scubagrunt is a glorious beacon of light scubagrunt is a glorious beacon of light scubagrunt's Avatar
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    Re: Isle Royale trip report

    nice post, i love it up there too. dont be stealing my deep thought dates for next year!!!

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