Great Canadian Parks / Ontario

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The Parks / Ontario / Fathom Five National Marine Park






Shipwrecks provide a broad historical view of trading on the Great Lakes in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when ships were the main cargo carriers for isolated ports. Navigation was made hazardous by the narrow channels, island shoals and changeable weather. Within the park’s boundaries are 21 accessible shipwrecks: schooners, tugs, barges and motor ships all at varying depths and some visible from shore. The Arabia, the Tecumseh, the John Walters, four wooden steam tugs, a passenger/freight streamer and even a floating restaurant sank or were stranded. When possible the wreck was towed to Tobermory Harbour within the present park’s boundaries where their historical value is preserved. Fathom Five’s dive team monitors their condition and location, currents, silt levels and any deterioration of remnants or artifacts. With primitive navigational equipment, early ship captains had to rely mainly on their wits and experience to get them from port to port. In the aftermath of the War of 1812, the increasing number of shipwrecks in the shipping lanes around Georgian Bay spurred on the development of improved navigational aids. Several lighthouses have played an essential role in our marine history. The Cove Island Light, the oldest lighthouse in the Upper Great Lakes, was completed in 1858, a 30 metre-high red and white limestone cylinder known as an imperial tower, one of six built from stone quarried mainly at Owen Sound. The site around Flowerpot Island Light, built in 1897, has been restored to preserve its significant heritage. At the Big Tub, a short wooden tower, built in 1885, marks the entrance to Tobermory Harbour where settlers once hung lanterns in a tree to guide the ships away from rocky shoals. Lighthouse keepers and their assistants lived a life of hardship and isolation relying on their own resources and shouldering the responsibility of providing the light with 24-hour care.

 

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