Undiscovered shipwrecks could help draw a new set of visitors to Thunder Bay and the north shore — and two advocates  of boosting area tourism say it's time to tap into what's under the water.

The operator of Thunder Country Diving says Lake Superior is generally more for adventurous divers, because the water is much colder than places like the Carribean.


Wally Peterson of Thunder Country Diving says diving in Lake Superior is generally more for adventurous divers, because the water is much colder than places like the Carribean. (Matt Prokopchuck/CBC)

"It's more involved ... it goes from being a jump in, play and swim  like people do in the Carribean to a more adventurous, more technical kind of dive," Wally Peterson said.

"Divers are always looking for new places to dive in, and experiences."

There are several wrecks between Thunder Bay and Rossport that fit the bill for more experienced, technical divers, he said, adding that some people will come from as far away as Europe to explore them.

Peterson has explored a number of those historic shipwrecks in Lake Superior as well.

"We have some of the best preserved wrecks around because the wood doesn't deteriorate in the cold, cold water," he said.


Nipigon Mayor Richard Harvey. (CBC)

Discovering new tourism opportunities

Nipigon Mayor and avid diver Richard Harvey said he thinks that maritime history should be marketed at a higher level.

He’s working with Peterson and other partners to promote northwestern Lake Superior as a new destination for scuba divers.

"We need to ... inventory, map out, and then do guides for the existing wrecks that are there," he said.

"We need to get out and actually find more of these wrecks."

Harvey said he hopes to get provincial funding for the project by the beginning of next year and have divers documenting shipwreck sites by next summer.

While many wrecks have been located, others have yet to be discovered, Peterson said.

"One of the ones out by the Welcome Islands is The Donaldson, which was the Patterson steamship line's second boat … it was sunk out there and has not been found."

Harvey is also working at getting a sheltered tip of Lake Superior in downtown Nipigon, also known as "The Lagoon," cleaned out, so it can be used as an all-weather dive site. The all-weather site, he said, could still be used if a storm blew up over Lake Superior, making diving in other areas impossible.

"The cool thing about a shipwreck on Lake Superior — unlike when you're diving in other areas — is that 100 year-old shipwrecks, they'll be in almost pristine condition," Harvey added. "You're not dealing with the coral that you have when you're down in the Carribean [and] you're not dealing with the Zebra Mussels in Southern Ontario."

Having "different activities for people to do" are some "of the things we're looking … [to]

increase tourism opportunities," he said.