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The town of Leamington is spearheading the development and preservation of the local submerged cultural and marine heritage. The projects name is ErieQuest. Of the four thousand documented ship wrecks in the Great Lakes, two hundred and fifty are right in the Pelee Passage. Of these wrecksites, fifty have already been found and the first fifteen are marked with a mooring buoy system for public exploration.
Shipwreck exploration provides a unique insight into heroic and tragic stories. It provides the opportunity to study the history of travel, and the features of Lake Erie's marine life and geology.
Leamington, Ontario located at the north western end of Lake Erie is fast becoming North America's new dive centre, " says Stephen Weir at Diver Magazine.
The visibility in the lakes has increased dramaticaly, many dives are shallow and the waters are temperate throughout the summer and fall. ErieQuest offers a large variety of shipwrecks in a concentrated area.
Local dive shops and charter operators fully service the industry, providing lessons, equipment, rentals and excursions. Non-diver excursions are also available for those who are equally curious. A Marine Heritage Interpretive Centre is open to the public for an "on land" experience.
The Town of Leamington invites you to go back in time, to see the historic giants, to imagine the human trauma and to experience this non-renewable heritage resource known as ...shipwrecks.
Since the mid 1800's over two hundred and seventy-five ships have been recorded to have sunk somewhere in the waters of the Pelee Passage.
To date there are 50 known locations of shipwreck site in the Pelee Passage, just off the shores of Leamington.
Cargo that was lost included food supplies, oak, walnut, grains, ore and coal. Cargo was either salvaged, looted by treasure hunters, was buried in the sifting sand of the lake, or commonly washed ashore.
The majority of wrecks lie in waters with an average depth of approximately 12 metres (40ft.) The deepest being the Willis that rests in approximately 22.5 metres (74ft.).
The largest ship in ErieQuest is a large wooden steamer called the Case. It was built in 1889 and sunk in 1918. The Case was 301ft. long by 42.5ft. Wide and had a 22ft. draft.
Shipwrecks are in fact artificial reefs. This provides a very attractive habitat for fish and many other organisms of the marine ecosystem.
Underwater visibility has increased in the last five years from 10ft. to 40ft. or more. This is due to the much heralded and maligned zebra mussel.
One of the important initiatives of Erie Quest is the installation of mooring buoys on the wreck sites. Until recently the ships were unmarked. Even with GPS or LORAN-C it was difficult to locate the wrecks accurately enough to put divers onto the site. Many boats would locate the wrecks by dragging their anchors until they hit the wreck. This was causing significant damage to the dive sites.
Now with the installation of the mooring buoys finding the wrecks will become much easier. Ships will no longer need to use anchors to hold themselves on the site.
If you wish to make use of the mooring buoys please note that there is a trailing rope for you to attach to. Do not tie off directly on the buoy itself.
ErieQuest has established a Marine Heritage Interpretive Centre at the Leamington Art Centre. Currently the hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 12-4pm. The Centre is located in the heart of Leamington, near the corner of Talbot Street and Mill. Just look for the big Tomato!
The Town of Leamington
38 Erie Street North
Tel: (519) 326-5761
Fax: (519) 326-2481
For More Information Contact
S.O.S. (John Karry)
Leamington District Chamber of Commerce
(519) 326-2721 or 1-800-250-3336
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