Thirsty Thursday Dives – The nice thing about belonging to a dive club is you can more often than not find a buddy to go diving with you. Other opportunities to dive for any certified diver include the weekly “Thirsty Thursday” dive after 5:00.
During the last month of summer and early fall, the Saint Joseph river, as it wanders thru and around Niles, Michigan, begins to clear up. That means the visibility increases , the river current moderates and the water temperature is suitable for wet suits.
One of the draws to diving the river is looking for bottles, some of which can be of significant value to some collectors. Divers that do this sort of diving are called “grubbers” as they dig around in the muck looking for treasures made of glass.
Here are some typical finds:
The Michigan Underwater Divers (MUD) Club hosted an Ecology Scuba Dive, September 23 in the St Joseph River.
There were 17 divers and surface support individuals participating in the 2017 Niles Ecology River Dive in the St. Joseph River held last Saturday at Riverfront Park.
The weather was great, if a little warm for this time of year, and the river cooperated by having a slow flow rate giving us at least 10 feet visibility before we silted it up by picking up the trash.
As indicated by the pictures there was a fair amount of trash collected which included many shopping carts, several bicycles, pipes, tires, water tank, and a ton of bottles. Wolfs Marine in Benton Harbor supplied the prizes that were awarded for four categories of trash: 1st Prize was for the Most trash collected, 2nd prize was for the largest item, 3rd for the the heaviest Item, and 4th the most Unique.
As one of the participating divers it has to be mentioned that we could not have gotten so much junk out if not for the tremendous support and hard labor by those providing shore support. The success of this event was due to the “TEAM” effort of everyone participating. A big Thanks to all that participated.
Here are just a few pictures taken from the dive.
Winner of Most Unique Find of the Dive
MUD Club 2017 Ecology Dive
♦♦ updated 9:20pm 9/20/2017 ♦♦
September 23, 2017
10:00am to 4:00pm
- 10:00 am – 11:00 setup
- 11:00am – 3pm ecology dive
- 3:00pm-4:00pm display finds and judging
- 4:00 clean-up
Michigan Underwater Divers Club is organizing an Ecology Scuba Dive again this year. Join us on Saturday, September 23rd, at the St. Joe river cleanup behind the Wonderland Theatre in Niles. Divers, Snorkelers, Swimmers, Kayakers, Waders, and Bubble Watchers are all needed to help out. There are bottles, tires, bottles, bicycles, bottles, car parts, bottles, and all sorts of “junk” to pick up and clean out of the river. Did we mention there are a lot of old bottles that you might want to display rather than throw into the dumpster, but that is your choice.
We are planning to be in the river any time between 11:00 and 3:00, with awards being presented for the most unusual, heaviest, most pieces and biggest pile.
Everyone is invited to come out and help. If you are diving, be sure to bring a dive flag and float to mark your position in the river. Bring a tarp to collect and display your finds. Extreme caution is urged as portions of the river have strong current and multiple snag and overhead hazards. There are areas that have less hazard and depths can run from 1 foot to over 10 feet. Anyone participating is volunteering their time at their own risk. A liability waver is required to participate.
We will have a trailer to load scrap steel into and plan on having a dumpster available for trash.
We recommend everyone come early for the best parking spots to avoid a long gear haul.
Scroll down to see photos of last year’s event!
Since this was another unseasonably warm and sunny day, for a February, there was no reason not to go diving. Todays dive area was back in the Saint Joseph river flowing between the shores of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor Michigan.
Under clear blue skies we launched from the Benton Harbor DNR docks and proceeded toward the wreck site doing a little extra side scanning on the way. We were really wanting to see if there was additional wreckage way from the main body and if there were additional wreckage out in the middle of the river.
Last weeks river conditions were a good bit better for exploration than today. The visibility was zero at the surface and varied between 12″ to 18″ on the bottom once your eyes adapted to the low light. The current was very swift and much more of a problem than two weeks ago when we were shore diving.
When the first diver back attempted to get back on board, the additional drag caused us to drag the anchor until it snagged in the wreckage. It was extremely helpful to have had a person topside at this time. Though no one took “goody bags” there were treasures to be found in the way of bottles and jars and a few made their way on board.
Additional scanning was performed on the way back to the docks and a few places of interest were noted for future possible dives.
Several of today’s divers: Ted Tomaszewski, Kevin Ailes and Robb Lyczynski.
Viver view toward Morrison Channel
doing a little extra scanning
After dive discussion
Glassware and bottles
This was Mack’s first wreck dive of February and the second for Kevin Ailes. With no ice and no one local ready to dive, Kevin was happy to came down to check out this shallow water wreck site.
The last time Mack dove this site was over 30 years ago and had been interested in seeing the changes over that period of time. Mack said that, back in the day, the water entry points were all natural with shallow slopes and the two ships were on top of each other. The bottom ship was a wooden steam ship and the top one was an old fishing tug that had the superstructure cut away. Thirty years ago the feature point of the wreckage was the tugs’ diesel engine with all its associated components. My how time changes everything!
The shore line has been dug out and filled in concrete blocks, making it very steep. It appears that a clam shell bucket was used during this time and a most of the wreckage removed.
What was left consists of junk iron and wood with lots of snag and puncture hazards. There was also a significant current as you moved away from the shoreline into the main body of the river.
Air temperature was 27°F, wind speed was 11 mph and wind chill factor temp was ~11° F. Water about 34/35°F. It did not take long for your gear to freeze up on the surface. Still it was a good dive. 🙂
This was a great weekend for classroom work if you were not able to get out diving. Several Muddies attended the following PADI & DAN speciality classes at Wolfs’ Marine in Benton Harbor. (Primary Instructor: Dave Tonneman – Benthic Adventures & Tracy David Scott Click)
The three classes were:
1) DAN Basic Life Support: CPR and First Aid
2) DAN Emergency Oxygen for Scuba Diving Injuries
3) PADI Enriched Air /Nitrox
Great classes, excellent instructors and a tremendous learning experience.
Some times the best visibility you have in a lake or river is when you have it covered in ice. The water is not agitated by wind, boaters, fishermen, water skiing and wave action. So in an effort to capitalize on the possibility of this occurring, Kevin Ailes and company ventured out to video the remains of a shallow wreck in Saugatuck.
Kevin said: Unfortunately today was not as desired as the visibility was only 5 feet. Still it was a good time and gave us a chance to practice self extraction. Thank you Tyler Knapp for line tending. Looked like we had a flyover by Mack as we were diving.
Diving The Rockaway – South Haven, Michigan
The marine forecast had been calling for lake conditions that would have been less than comfortable the whole weekend so an alternate site, Lake 16, was chosen for a Sunday afternoon dive. Checking conditions just before loading the gear though showed that Lake Michigan would cooperate with yet another nice dive this season.
Bob S., Kirk W., and Jim K. headed out of South Haven for a dive on the Rockaway that was lost in 1891.
Descending down on the wreck, the visibility was in the 15′-20′ range and the water temp was approx 60f. While she is mostly rubble now, the anchor chain, windlass, and keel box were easily found. Some pieces are just out of sight from the main portion so when visiting those areas, running a line would be a good idea. And with a maximum depth of 60′-65′, there is plenty of time to explore the remains.
On surfacing, the conditions were found to have changed a bit with the waves picking up a little and a light rain but it didn’t dampen the feeling that this was another really good dive.
If you haven’t visited the Rockaway lately because you thought there wasn’t much to see, do it again but slow down and appreciate it for what it is. You may even be able to visit for a bit with some of the locals that have taken up residence in the wreck.