The Munson

May 16, 1999
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Type: Shipwreck (schooner)
Build: Wood
Location: Kingston, Ontario
Nearest municipality: Kingston
Depth: 110' feet (28 meters)
Visibility: 20-40 feet (6-12 metres)
Approximate length: ( metres)
Sunk: 1890
Access: Boat
Level: Advanced (not for novices due to depth and darkness)

The Munson is the kind of wreck that makes even a veteran diver say, "Hubba hubba."

It is deep enough that light penetration levels drop far enough to force your eyes to adjust, and about halfway down the 110' to the bottom your vision begins to beg for something to see. No matter how strong your light it won't reach all the way to this wreck. This wreck kind of reaches out to you (before you put that down to being simply unoriginal hyperbole, remember that the Munson is a dredge with four large "legs" that extend directly towards the surface.)

To understand the attraction of the Munson you need is an idea of what it is: a squarish, two level barge with a bucket on a hinged crane arm. For having been on the bottom of Lake Ontario for over a century she is in amazing condition.

The ship is a testament to two things: the ability of fresh water to preserve a wreck, and the ability of man to do the same. Preserve Our Wrecks (POW) Kingston has done such a marvelous job of educating divers that some of the tools, cutlery, and other small items that went down when she sunk in 1890 are still there. A forge, boilers for raising and lowering the bucket in the pre-hydraulic days, and the dredging arm are all still intact, albeit in less-than-original condition. But it is in such good shape it is actually possible to follow the cables from the boiler area all the way through their routings to the bucket.

On the lower deck you can find the workbench littered with tools, a stove, and the collection of utensils and ceramics. The upper deck is so intact not much light penetrates through here, so a dive light is mandatory if you want to see the details (like things NOT to swim into.)

Bound for Rossmore the Munson did not make it far out of Kingston when she sprang a leak and sank while under tow. She had to be cut loose to keep her from pulling the tugs down with her, and now rests less than a 20 minute boat ride from Collins Bay.

Since it is one of Kingston's crown jewels in the wreck department the Munson has been featured on several TV shows including Sport Diver and Undersea Adventure, who liked to point out that there was no loss of life although the cook William Green went down with the ship. The story goes that he was in the kitchen preparing a meal at the time of the sinking and went down about 30' before escaping the pull of the ship and making it to the surface.

At the time of this writing the Munson is not as covered in zebra mussels as many wrecks in the Great Lakes, and presents few hazards to divers other than the cold, depth and darkness. It has few entanglement problems other than some coat-hangar-like wire amidships on the lower deck and some fishing line that has already done in a few small fish.

With the open design of the decks penetration is particularly easy on this ship and safer to boot.

Tom Wilson is a PADI divemaster, and can be contacted at marvintpa@hotmail.com

Munson Pictures
Munson Pictures
Munson Pictures
Munson Pictures
Munson Pictures

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