Thunder Bay

Heritage markers vanish from Lake Superior shipwrecks

Two heritage markers have vanished from popular wrecks in Lake Superior. Save Ontario Shipwrecks says removing them is both costly and against the law.

Save Ontario Shipwrecks says removing the markers is both costly and against the law

Nipigon mayor Richard Harvey, right, is vice chair of the Superior chapter of Save Ontario Shipwrecks. He told CBC the heritage marker buoys, such as the one in this photo, cost approximately $1,500 to replace. (Save Ontario Shipwrecks)

Two heritage markers have mysteriously vanished from shipwrecks in Lake Superior — and the vice chair of the Superior chapter of Save Ontario Shipwrecks says disappearances like that sink the group's efforts to promote local dive tourism.

Richard Harvey told CBC, the two buoys went missing in separate incidents from the sites of the Puckasaw and the Howard, two sunken vessels popular with divers.

They are among five markers that the group has placed over the past two summers to encourage diving in the region; they help divers locate wrecks and provide a place to moor their boats. 

SOS can't be certain that anyone purposely tampered with the buoys Harvey said. But he noted fishers have previously removed temporary markers that were located near their favourite fishing spots.

"Our suspicion at this point is that it may have been a fisherman, not realizing the significance of what these are and just saying, 'Aw look at this. These guys have gone and put these out where I don't want them to be,' and not realizing that it actually is a federal offence to be tampering with them," Harvey said.
Have you seen this buoy? Heritage markers such as this one help divers locate underwater shipwrecks and provide a place to moor their boats. Two of them have mysteriously vanished from wrecks in Lake Superior this summer.

"The reason the fishing's so good is because fish like structure. They like underwater structure. ... The best underwater structure you could have, of course, is a shipwreck," he added.

The goal now, Harvey said, is to educate people about the importance of leaving the markers in place.

It's a federal offence to remove a navigation aid, he said; it also violates the provincial Heritage Act.

What's more, he added, replacing the markers is costly.

Buying and shipping them costs about $1,500 per buoy, he said.

Some of that money comes from donations. Some comes from municipalities, including the City of Thunder Bay.

Markers helped generate more than 20K in economic activity

Volunteers must then invest time to go out on the water to replace them.

Lost buoys also mean lost tourism dollars, Harvey said. Last year, Thunder Bay Tourism estimated the first two markers SOS placed in the lake generated between $20,000 and $30,000 in economic activity for the city, he said.

SOS has replaced both of the missing buoys and recovered one of them.

It's also adjusting the rigging to make it harder for people to detach them, Harvey said.

One marker is still missing. Anybody with information about its whereabouts is asked to contact the organization.

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