Friday, February 22, 2008


2008 Great Lakes Underwater conference (March 15)

February 22, 2008

If you’ve seen the movie Titanic, you have had a glimpse of Dennis Hale’s real life drama. Hale is the sole survivor of the sinking of the steamship Daniel J. Morrell. The 603-foot-long ship sank in the dark early morning hours of November 29, 1966 on Lake Huron. Hale will share his story as the only survivor of a 29-member crew as part of the 2008 Great Lakes Underwater conference in Oswego on Saturday, March 15.

“The seas were estimated at 30 to 35 feet; the wind at 60 to 65 miles per hour. The water temperature was 44 degrees; the air temperature 33 degrees. I was barefoot, and wearing only undershorts, a life vest and a peacoat,” says Hale, who has written his story in a book title “Sole Survivor.”

Also on the agenda for the annual conference for maritime history and shipwreck enthusiasts and divers are Jim Kennard, who has found more than 200 shipwrecks in the past 30 years and technical diver Dan Scoville who uses a custom mix of breathing gases to dive to depths of greater than 300 feet. Kennard and Scoville will talk about using a high-tech sonar device they built to discover the wreck of the mid-1800s Canadian schooner Orcardian. They will also talk on the last flight of the Sea Bee.

Back by popular demand are Two Tank Tips presented by the New York State Divers Association (NYSDA). The Tips are for places where divers can take two tanks of oxygen out on one trip and easily dive on two wrecks within close proximity. NYSDA members will present a variety of “Two Tank” shipwrecks found in New York waters including sites in Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, the Finger Lakes, Lake George, the St. Lawrence River, Raquette Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, and the Sacandaga Reservoir.

Representatives of the Eastern Ontario Artificial Reef Association, headquartered in Mallorytown, Ontario, will speak on the planned sinking of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship HMCS Terra Nova in the Canadian waters of the 1000 Islands. By creating an artificial reef out of the steel hull destroyer escort ship for the 20,000 divers expected to visit the new wreck, the Association that is mandated to obtain and sink decommissioned Canadian destroyers hopes to take some diving pressure off the more historic wrecks.

According to a 1999 New York Sea Grant study, scuba divers add more than $108 million in annual economic impact to New York’s Great Lakes Seaway Trail region. Recreation and Tourism Specialist David G. White of New York Sea Grant, Oswego, NY, says efforts such as the New York State Blueway Trail and the Dive the Seaway Trail project are linking divers with the vast underwater resources and the submerged heritage preserves that are developing across the state.

At the March 15 Great Lakes Underwater program, White and Underwater Blueway Trail Interim Director David Decker will report on progress in the development of the New York State Blueway Trail and the Dive the Seaway Trail project that highlights sites for different levels of diving skill and of different interest from historic shipwrecks to unique geological and ecological quality.

“The opportunities these trails create for underwater and on-land exploration of our maritime history will return a tremendous economic boost to shoreline communities,” White says.

In the past year, Seaway Trail, Inc. has installed five new shipwreck theme outdoor storyteller interpretive panels along the 518-mile byway at Alexandria Bay, Clayton, Oswego, Pultneyville and Dunkirk.

The 12th annual Great Lakes Underwater will be held March 15, 2008, from 9 am to 4:30 pm on State University of New York at Oswego campus, Oswego, NY. Registration is $25 ($20 for students) payable to Cornell University includes lunch. Great Lakes Underwater 2008 is hosted by New York Sea Grant and the Oswego Maritime Foundation and co-sponsored by Seaway Trail, Inc.

For more information, go online to or contact New York Sea Grant at 315-312-3042 before March 7.


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