"There can't be a wreck here."
That was all I could think looking waveward from a little out-of-the-way
beach near Oshawa, Ontario. I'd been told the water was only 10 feet
deep, so had expected to see some kind of ripple at the surface even
on water this calm, but there was nothing to even suggest a wreck.
You could live in one of the houses just feet off the beach for
decades and never know there was a ship just 100' offshore.
The Juno is the kind of wreck many divers will swim over once and say
"Been there, done that, don't need the T-shirt." You know those kinds
of divers: if it is not in Truuk Lagoon don't call it a wreck. They
would be bored to elephant-sized tears on this formerly-138' wreck
that is now decidedly more humble (but still beats many of the wrecks
in Tobermory on the this-was-worth-seeing scale.)
My guess is this wreck will appeal to two types of divers: the rookies
(a.k.a. tadpoles) who are enthralled with anything wet (get yer mind
outta the gutter) and the "advanced" divers. By advanced I mean the
kind of diver who has their advanced certification card because it
is a step in their evolution as a diver... and forgotten where it
is because they realize that is not what makes someone an advanced
diver. (They are the kind of people who can actually call more than
three parts of ship by their correct names.)
Having been in such shallow water the Juno has fallen prey to wind,
waves, ice, and bird droppings launched at sufficient altitude.
There are plenty of timbers, and more than sufficient structure to
give you the idea it was a boat (the capstan is a pretty good clue
too. One surprising thing about that capstan: it has no zebra mussels
on it... something about the metal perhaps?)
Regardless of how good a diver you are you this can be a challenging
wreck. As we all learned in the open water course (hopefully) the
greatest buoyancy changes occur in the last 15' of ascent, and since
on this wreck you can't get deeper than 11' unless you start digging,
every breath can profoundly affect where you are in the (short) water
column. There is also a small swim through, that is more like a swim
between, where if you can make it without bumping anything or stirring
up the bottom you win an (invisible) gold star.
Unlike far too many wrecks that have been picked cleaner than the desert
bar at an Overeater's Anonymous convention, this one has some stuff left
on it. There are pulleys and hooks and a few things that I should
probably know the names of and don't (never claimed to be an advanced
diver.) This is due in part to the efforts of SOS (Save Ontario
Shipwrecks) and those little laws that make artifact removal illegal
in Ontario. At the risk of returning one day to find it gone, I will
mention that this little piece of history still has its 8' diameter
prop, with only one of the four blades buried in the sand. Rumor has
it the prop is brass but you would have to ask the zebra mussels to
This wreck will be disappointing to the folks who like to swim 5' off
the bottom because that is not where the action is on this (or
virtually any) wreck. Look in the holes, the nooks and crannies,
and you may find something no one else ever has. My dive buddy
came across a little two inch long sculpin that swam directly up to
his mask then took shelter in the palm of his hand of its own volition
and allowed itself to be carried there for quite a distance. Those are
the little things that can make a dive like this better than one to
150' where it is so cold and so dark the only thing you want to do
is get back on the boat. And the 50 minutes of bottom time is quite
a luxury, particularly for an air pig like myself.
It has been demonstrated to me time and time again that fish are
involved in a union whose sole goal it is to taunt photographers,
and the ones on the Juno are card carrying members as well. Their
key weapon is knowing when the camera is out of film. The school of
about 40 perch hid from me for four laps of the wreck until 30 seconds
after I was out of film when they swam directly in front of me... in
procession no less. Granted, it did make for quite a sight, and one I
will not soon forget... the bastards.
It is hard to give someone an impression of a wreck of this age and
condition, but if I had to quantify it I'd say it is 80% decayed with
30-35% of it's total structure remaining.
Once upon a time the Juno steam barge was 114' long, 27' wide, with a
9' draft and a gross weight of 209 tons. It was built in 1885 and
rebuilt 11 years later when it was stretched by about 24' to be
able to carry more gravel but has been in its current depth-enhanced
location since 1915.
Directions: take 401 to exit 431 Waverly road at Bowmanville, and
follow it south to the end as it twists and turns. Park at the very
end, and head to the water through the vacant lot, and head left until
you encounter a small drainage stream just down the beach The wreck is
about 100' directly out from the stream. Total distance from where you
park to the entrance point is about 100 metres.
Tom Wilson is a PADI divemaster, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org