Mystery Wreck of Prince Edward County

Rich with maritime history, Canada’s Prince Edward County thrusts out from the northern shore of Lake Ontario. Almost completely surrounded by water, the area is a popular summer tourist destination. It’s home to boutique wineries, cheese producers and dairy farms, but much of the rest of the area remains in its natural state.

About 10 years ago I first heard about two mystery wrecks lying offshore, and a local dive lodge would occasionally take tech divers to the area. My favorite — the prettier of the two wrecks, with the lower sections of both masts still standing — is nicknamed Petrie 2 after the closest point of land.

Like the wreck, the initial discovery of Petrie 2 is a mystery. A local diver and historian said divers found it during a search for wreckage of an Avro Arrow, a 1950s-era Canadian supersonic fighter jet.

Petrie 2 lies 12 miles offshore, directly under the shipping lanes. On the morning of our dives, wind was nonexistent, but the fog was thick. We launched our boat and made our way to the area before watching the sonar. The wreck is not buoyed normally, but a crew member on our boat had dropped his temporary mooring at the end of last season. Once adjacent to the wreck, we dropped a shot line, and two of our team suited up. We soon spotted a lift bag slightly astern, and our fixed mooring line was soon ready to go.

The rest of us suited up quickly and reviewed our dive plans. As the only member of our team who was diving open circuit, my bottom time would be a few minutes shorter than the others, who were on rebreathers. I had a clear vision of the shot I wanted to get before heading down, and once on the wreck, I moved off the bow and positioned myself on the bottom, using my elbows as a tripod of sorts. There was little light. I checked my camera settings and waited. Two of the other divers had elaborate plans for some images using remote lighting, and I hoped to be able to benefit from their hard work.

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Time flies in 175 feet of water; as my bottom time was nearing an end, light began streaming through the railing. I quickly fired off a few shots, bracketing my exposures. I knew from previous years that the particulate matter in the water caused havoc with backscatter, so I had dialed my strobes all the way back and aimed them far away from the subject. I only wanted a kiss of fill light to break through the shadow cast by the hull.

Some people believe that this wreck may be the schooner Blanche, lost with her crew of five on May 26, 1888, although the ship’s identity has not been confirmed. Unidentified, in a little-known location and lying in the dark, the ship remains an enigmatic and rare subject.

© Alert Diver — Q4 2018