ALPENA, Mich. (AP) — Divers and archaeologists are studying a sunken steam barge at the bottom of Thunder Bay in Lake Huron about a half mile off the shore of northeastern Michigan.
The researchers, including students from East Carolina University, are trying to learn more about the W.P. Thew, which sank in about 85 feet of water after it was struck by the freighter William Livingston in June 1909. Researchers are hoping to learn more about the single-propeller steam barges used to carry cargo such as lumber, coals and rocks.
Last week, the crew of eight divers and two boat crew members completed five dives on the wreck, working on the baselines and getting information down about the site.
“The main goal for the wreck is to complete the site plan and initial documentation of the site, and use the same crew to continue some technical dives and focus on these deeper water wrecks,” archaeologist Wayne Lusardi of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources told The Alpena News (http://bit.ly/29AKG9G ).
The dive is more complicated because of its 85-foot depth. Maritime archaeologist John Bright, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary dive safety officer, is running the dive operations to make sure everyone is safe and in proper rotation in each dive. The crew is using many different types of equipment, including nitrox enriched air and closed circuit rebreathers, which will extend diving time and reduce decompression time. He said the crew is using new diving procedures approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“It’s a relaxed standard that allows us to do technical level dives to a certain limit without the same requirements we would need if we were doing dives in much deeper water. In 80 feet of water, that can still be a recreational dive, but if the diver stays longer, it becomes a technical dive,” he said.
Information from: The Alpena News, http://www.thealpenanews.com