The end of another diving season is here. I made my last dive for the season last weekend in 35 degree water in Lake Minnetonka. It’s a shame to end the season as I had 35 foot visibility!
It was another year of exploration and discovery with Maritime Heritage Minnesota, where I have been a volunteer for the past 9 years. We continue to dive on anomalies that were discovered during their side scan sonar survey of Lake Minnetonka from a couple of years ago.
My personal stats for the year:
87 dives completed
9 shipwrecks including the passenger vessel White Bear in Lake Minnetonka and the Fleetwing in Lake Michigan (Door County)
2 antique cars — the body from a Ford Model T touring car and a 1938 Ford Deluxe Roadster
Water intakes, pipelines, and other artifacts in Lake Minnetonka
Most of these finds have been documented via video — search for my YouTube channel (K7ALE) to take a look.
I’ve been a volunteer diver for a number of years at Maritime Heritage Minnesota (MHM), a marine archeology firm here in the Twin Cities doing underwater survey work in the state, Over the past few years, we have been working at Lake Minnetonka to search for sunken wrecks and determine what they are and how they got on the bottom.
We’ve used Navdive (our GPS-based navigation system for divers) on many of our survey dives, including yesterday when we spotted a possible wreck on our surface-based side scan sonar in the dive boat.
With Navdive, we were able to:
Preprogram GPS coordinates that were obtained using the side scan sonar on the boat, allowing the diver to navigate to each point while remaining underwater.
2. Capture GPS coordinates of underwater features that are discovered during the dive for cataloging later.
3. During the post dive analysis, we were able to show the path our divers swam during the entire dive.
The results? More efficient use of our underwater time, better data for our research, and the ability to integrate all of our data sources (i.e. surface-based side scan sonar, Navdive data, and Google Earth) to produce reports documenting our findings.
The ice went out in the middle of last week — almost an all time record for the earliest ice out in this Minnesota lake. I did have to dive in Wayzata Bay today — St. Louis Bay was still covered in ice.
Water temp was right at 32 degrees, but great visibility.
Normally, my diving season would have ended over a month ago, but because of our late “ice in”, I have been able to dive in Minnesota into December — 35 degree water, but at least there was no ice.
The numbers for 2015:
112 dives completed
I was able to dive on 14 new wrecks, including the following passenger vessels on the bottom in Lake Minnetonka:
Excelsior (shown above)
My thanks to Maritime Heritage Minnesota for allowing me to make many of these dives as part of their research. I’ve learned quite a bit about underwater archeology and, in particular, the history of Lake Minnetonka and its rich maritime past.
Many of these dives were documented by video — search for the K7ALE channel on YouTube.
Yesterday marked the start of my eighth year as a volunteer diver for Maritime Heritage Minnesota, a non-profit involved with the research, exploration, and documentation of Minnesota’s underwater resources.
We spent the day yesterday on Lake Minnetonka diving on three different “anomalies” that were discovered during MHM’s side scan sonar study. The first anomaly proved to be elusive and after two dives, we didn’t find anything. So we moved over to anomaly two and found a small fiberglass runabout (1970’s vintage). The third site we dove on looked promising on the sonar, but turned out to be a very long log sitting next to a metal trailer frame.
David Lang, co-founder of openROV (www.openrov.com) and I had a chance to get out on Lake Minnetonka yesterday to do a little wreck hunting. I’m very interested in how ROVs can help make the survey work we are doing with Maritime Heritage Minnesota more efficient (as compared to deploying divers to investigate every anomaly).
I was impressed by this little ROV’s capability and I believe it can be used in a number of ways — quick investigations of anomalies, video/photo documentation, and diver support during survey dives. Very cool!
For the fifth summer in a row, I have been volunteering with Maritime Heritage Minnesota, a non-profit marine archaeology firm researching Minnesota’s submerged resources. This summer, we have continued our work in Lake Minnetonka, diving on sites that have been identified during a previous side-scan sonar survey of the lake.
So far this year, I have been able to dive on five wrecks, including a new discovery. I have video of all of these wrecks on YouTube (search for K7ALE for my channel) — I am also linking to a couple of the more interesting videos here.
So normally when one is looking for shipwrecks, you use tools like boats, side scan sonar and ultimately put divers in the water to find out what you’ve got. Because we are currently “ice bound” in Minnesota, the search continues, but using a slightly different approach.
As part of an on-going project with Maritime Heritage Minnesota, we are experimenting with the use of drop cameras on key target sites.
GPS coordinates were obtained by MHM during their survey of Lake Minnetonka in 2013. While we are in the process of diving these sites during the summer months, it’s not practical to ice dive the remaining sites in the winter. So we’re trying to use a drop camera on these undocumented sites to determine if we have anything interesting or not. Last week we dropped in on a site in Lake Minnetonka in 26 feet of water (and through 20 inches of ice!).
The results? Inconclusive. If you squint hard, you can see straight lines in the image above that “might” be a gunwale. I guess we’ll see for sure in the spring.