Great Lakes divers premiere Georgian Bay shipwrecks book

The diving duo of Cris Kohl and Joan Forsberg has released another book of shipwreck stories, available at Printshop Books in The Expositor Office.

KAGAWONG – The dynamic diving duo of Cris Kohl and Joan Forsberg are back with yet another book about the shipwrecks of the Georgian Bay, offering detailed accounts of the service life and fate of numerous vessels at the bottom of the bay, as well as numerous retellings of just how they were discovered.

“It was definitely a labour of love,” said Ms. Forsberg, describing the process of producing their 18th book. 

“Of all the places to go diving, the North Channel and Georgian Bay are our most favourite,” added Mr. Kohl. “Manitoulin is so special to us; we’re fully in love with this place.”

‘Shipwreck Tales of Georgian Bay’ is geared to a general public audience who may have any interest in the area’s history, with no intricate underwater knowledge required to fully appreciate the content. They premiered the title at History Day in Kagawong and have begun a tour to promote it.

For those less familiar with the maritime heritage of this region, the authors include a brief summary of the historical context following the introduction and acknowledgements. What follows are detailed accounts of 12-and-a-half shipwrecks in Georgian Bay.

Two of the shipwrecks are the ‘Asia’ and La Salle’s ‘Le Griffon,’ both of which have yet to be discovered. The couple said they have some promising clues as to the resting place of the ‘Asia’ and will continue their pursuit. They were featured on the Discovery Channel series ‘Expedition Unknown’ earlier this year on a hunt for ‘Le Griffon’ which, unfortunately, was unsuccessful. However, they did locate two new wrecks at that time.

The other ships described in this book are the ‘Nancy,’ ‘Mary Ward,’ ‘Wabuno,’ ‘Jane Miller,’ ‘Arabia,’ ‘Sweepstakes,’ ‘J.H. Jones,’ ‘Mapledawn’ and ‘Manasoo.’ 

The ship-and-a-half described above is how this reporter would refer to the wreck of the ‘Atlantic’ and ‘Manitoulin.’ In 1880, the Manitoulin was launched in Owen Sound. Just two years later, a fire broke out while it was underway and a good portion of the ship’s structure was burned. As many as 30 people died in the incident.

Experts determined that they could salvage the hull and it was rebuilt as the Atlantic. It served for two decades until, in what might be seen as a horrific coincidence, it too caught fire while underway. All aboard managed to escape to lifeboats and were picked up by a passing tug.

Mr. Kohl and Ms. Forsberg said they had sunk some 20 years of research in the book, drawing on the things they had learned over many diving expeditions.

“It’s as up-to-date as possible for the shipwrecks around this area. It’s our attempt to bring this history to a nationwide audience,” said Mr. Kohl.

Georgian Bay is known for its shipwrecks, with divers travelling from around the world to experience the numerous well-preserved wrecks in the area. Due to poor land transportation and growing population centres in the 1800s and early 1900s, ships were an abundant means of transporting mass amounts of goods and people from far and wide.

“These were the workhorses on the Great Lakes, carrying bulk cargo and passengers,” said Ms. Forsberg. “That’s why, tragically, you have such loss of life.”

The two said their love of history and maritime heritage’s lack of coverage in the education system motivates them to produce this content.

“We don’t want any history to be lost. That’s why we write books and give talks, so people will remember,” said Ms. Forsberg. “We have something so unique here.”

‘Shipwreck Tales of Georgian Bay’ will be soon available for sale at The Manitoulin Expositor’s office in Little Current for $19.95 plus tax.