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The Search for North Americas Oldest Shipwreck

Discussion in 'Canadian Wreck Preservation' started by Scott McWilliam, Nov 28, 2017.

  1. Scott McWilliam

    Scott McWilliam Contributor

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    Silver Islet

    As a child of twelve and thirteen my grandfather, the late James McWilliam would work weekends through the school year and save his money to buy passage on the Silver Spray or the Kakabeka at the end of the school year and travel to Silver Islet. The cost of a round-trip ticket was seventy-five cents. By today's parenting standards, the pre-world war one version of outward bound was rather ambitious, in the least. He spent many summers camping in the Silver Islet area, camping, fishing selling or trading fish. He was a family friend of Captain Cross and the Cross family.

    Boys being boys, one of his favourite activities when they actually went out to the mine site on Silver Islet was trying to blow stuff up. At that time part of the shaft house was still standing and the Islet was covered in Banister cable, the fuse that was used to set off explosive charges in the mine. As a pastime, they would put a match to random lengths of fuse and watch it burn, without ever really being sure if there was a charge at the other end of the lit fuse and then run like hell.

    Fortunately for my sake, he survived his childhood and military service. The road was put into Silver Islet after WWII and it was always a great place for a Sunday drive.

    I am not selling books and I understand it is now hard to come by, but my little book, The Island Mines, deals in part with the history of the Silver Islet Mine and area mines, so I will not address that here.

    Some years ago serious consideration was given to a rebreather expedition to explore the mine. I recommend against such a venture based on what I have seen but you have to remember I am not big into (or frankly all that interested) in cave diving. I have done some but it is really not my thing.

    The waves deposit gravel and rocks into the shaft which collect on the various timbers used in the cribbing. Open Circuit is a bad idea as your bubbles are constantly rattling debris down the shaft.

    At a depth of eighty feet, we were able to squeeze through the cribbing and found ourselves in a cavern. In 1919-20(?) one of the Cross family members decided to try a little mining and did recover enough silver to put himself through university. They made a small coffer dam and found an existing pipe and pumped out the shaft to a depth of 119’. Then they used explosives to “hog out” the oar around the shaft. The first horizontal shaft is at 130’. The mine is 1,200’ feet deep and they tossed any material non-ore bearing rock, timbers etc., down the shaft. The result was the cavern I mentioned. Hanging out of the walls and roof are dozens of rock bolts four or five feet long. It is like swimming through an inside-out porcupine.

    Then the fun part, you catch a glimpse of how they used logs to shore up the timber in the video? On the surface, you see two shafts one is full of beach cobbles and the water is only four feet deep in this shaft. When you are in the mine looking up you discover the two shafts merge in the roof of the cavern and logs are again used to seal off the one shaft and in fact, all that is holding up tons of rock.

    The entrance to the mine has been grated off now and it became apparent that it was just too crazy a place for me to continue diving. The surrounding area is fascinating but has had pretty rough treatment if you are looking at it as an archaeological site.

    The original Island was through a series of cribbing’s and fill, expanded out to five and one-half acres. The Lake has been reducing the Island since the 1880’s. During the Hunt brother’s bid to monopolize the world silver market, QC expeditions contracted Elliot Dawson and they dredged up around five hundred tons of rock from around the islet. Many of the remaining submerged cribbing’s were torn apart in the process and the site destroyed along with cultural materials. Interestingly, the price of silver fell and the ore was never processed. It sat in a pile at the waterfront and was eventually taken out and dumped back into the lake to get rid of it.

    This has to be recognized as yet another failure by the Ontario Government and the then Ministry of Culture and Heritage. This site was destroyed needlessly on an industrial level without attracting as much as a yawn from the Provinces Underwater Archaeologist.
     
    shoredivr and Jared0425 like this.
  2. Scott McWilliam

    Scott McWilliam Contributor

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    on location IMG_9682.gif but I have a heck of a story for you when I get back.
     
    shoredivr likes this.
  3. Scott McWilliam

    Scott McWilliam Contributor

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  4. Scott McWilliam

    Scott McWilliam Contributor

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  5. Scott McWilliam

    Scott McWilliam Contributor

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    A young Hemingway . . .
     

    Attached Files:

  6. Scott McWilliam

    Scott McWilliam Contributor

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    The Missing Forward to The Search for North America's Oldest Shipwreck The Missing Forward
     
    Jared0425 likes this.
  7. Jared0425

    Jared0425 Public Safety Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Detroit, Michigan
    1,180
    848
    Scott, you truly are on of the last of the pioneers in our beautiful region.

    A young man like myself would love to come up and explore the most isolated areas in the Great Lakes. Keep up the drive and stay healthy. I would like for our paths to cross sooner or later....

    Keep up the adventures
    Jared Daniel
     
    shoredivr likes this.
  8. Scott McWilliam

    Scott McWilliam Contributor

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    Always looking for a dive partner J, civilized version of paper
     

    Attached Files:

  9. abnfrog

    abnfrog Tech Instructor

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: great white north
    1,932
    1,572
    cool read scott.............steve
     
  10. Scott McWilliam

    Scott McWilliam Contributor

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    Jared, Steve . . . which one of my kids told you I pay for complements?
     

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