Chris Kohl, shipwreck hunter, on treasures below the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes of North America earn their title honestly. 

Shipwreck hunter visited Kagawong during History Days

Shipwreck hunter Chris Kohl was in Kagawong as part of their history days. (Submitted by Ken Merryman)

The Great Lakes of North America earn their title honestly. 

The five interconnected lakes represent the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth by total area and contain over 20 per cent of the world's fresh water by volume.

They also hold thousands of shipwrecks in their watery graves. 

Georgian Bay and the North Channel of Lake Huron lay claim to their share of maritime disasters, which is what keeps Cris Kohl and Joan Forsberg, authors and historians, very busy searching for ships that never made it to shore.

Together they have penned 18 books on shipwrecks— were guests at Kagawong's History Day Thursday where they presented their slideshow called "Shipwrecks of Georgian Bay."

Kohl said over the last two years, shipwreck hunters found three significant wrecks. 

"I was very privileged to have been part of a three-man team that found two of them in the summer of 2018," Kohl told CBC's Morning North.

"But there's still at least one biggie, one big ghost ship out there that has not been found."

"It's the most tragic mishap that occurred on not only Georgian Bay but all of Lake Huron," he said. "More than 120 people perished. There were only two survivors."

Kohl said one of his most memorable finds was that of the J.H. Jones.

"J.H. Jones was the one that we found on Canada Day 2018," Kohl said. "It was a ship about 107 feet long. It was built in Goderich in 1888 and it was owned in Wiarton. It was trying to head up Lion's Head on the Bruce Peninsula with a full cargo and about 28 people onboard."

"And it was the very end of November, and sure enough they got caught in a storm," he said. "The last person to see the ship was the lighthouse keeper at Cape Croker and the ship was about to round the bend for its final one into Lion's Head and it disappeared."

Kohl said a few years later three tugboats dragged a cable across the lake bottom, trying to find the wreck. They weren't successful, but after a few storms, bits and pieces of the cargo began washing ashore.

"I'm surprised the wreck hadn't been located earlier because there were quite a few clues as to where it was," Kohl said. 

He took a crew out looking for it and said he found the wreck within two hours.

"I had copies of all these reports of commercial fishermen snagging their nets in a certain area and debris washing ashore from that particular shipwreck," he said. 

"And we had on board the boat with us the 83-year-old great-great grandson of the captain of the J.H. Jones,  which would something rather unique in our days of finding shipwrecks."

Exploring the depths of the Great Lakes one shipwreck at a time. History Day in Kagawong features a presentation by maritime historian and author Cris Kohl. Chris tells us some stories about these preserved shipwrecks beneath the water. He spoke with Peter Williams. 9:10


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