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The Weather Network
Feb. 21, 2019 | Thursday
Local News
A thousand words with David Gilchrist
If you are looking for David Gilchrist, you will almost always find him with camera at the ready. (Supplied)

David Gilchrist combines two passions: diving and photography.

For more than 20 years, in all seasons and all kinds of weather, David Gilchrist has donned his diving gear, loaded his underwater camera, and waded into the chilly, drifting currents of the Niagara River at Navy Hall.

His is a never-ending quest to discover and record the secrets these waters offer about the maritime history of Niagara.

Gilchrist, a 66-year-old former high school teacher and diving instructor, volunteers his specialized skills with the Ontario Marine Heritage Committee, a group of professional archeologists, licensed to dive on historically significant sites and report their findings. Many such reports are highlighted by Gilchrist’s photographs.

With his wife, Claudia, and young family, Gilchrist came to live in Niagara-on-the-Lake in 1979.

Gilchrist had taken up scuba diving as a teenager in Hamilton. Photography came later after people kept asking: “What do you see down there?” “It’s hard to explain, so I decided I needed to show them with pictures,” says Gilchrist. “Now underwater photography is really my main pursuit.”

“Locating and recording these sites can be very significant,” says Gilchrist. “Whether it is a wharf or shipwreck or a prehistoric site, we’ve helped discover what the sites can tell us.”

Around Niagara, the Navy Hall site is one of Gilchrist’s most memorable dives. “I’ve helped to study the old wharf foundation and what looks like a section of a sunken bateau.”

Another highlight was the “old tiller wreck” off Port Dalhousie. “It is a very early 90 foot, two masted schooner, lying intact, gently on its side on the bottom.”

“Whether it is a wharf or shipwreck or a prehistoric site, we’ve helped discover what the sites can tell us.”

“I was always interested in biology” he adds. “And that was the era of Seahunt on television and Jacques Cousteau specials. The idea of diving really intrigued me.”

Gilchrist doesn’t limit his dives to local sites. His vacations are chosen to find new and different scuba/photography opportunities, including Honduras, Egypt, the Caribbean, the High Arctic and the South Pacific. And his bucket list includes the Philippines and Australia.

Gilchrist chuckles as he tells that story of an Arctic dive. When he surfaced, a group of local children shouted: “Ivak, Ivak!” (Gilchrist admits it’s the phonetic spelling). When he asked what it meant, an elder smiled and said: “Walrus.”

It’s a nickname he immediately adopted.

If he’s not diving and shooting his discoveries, Gilchrist is wandering the town and riverside in the hunt for memorable above-water shots. He posts his best shots on a variety of Facebook sites, including his own.

“I started out with the Classic Niagara-on-the-Lake Facebook page,” he says. “It’s a site largely for people who grew up here and moved away. I guess they want to connect with old friends and remember the past. Or maybe lament the changes.” His pictures also frequent the NOTL Today Facebook site.

Gilchrist has several favorite above-water photographic themes. He loves the heritage of Fort George and everything the Niagara River has to offer.

“I started to post duck pictures on a couple of sites and people began telling me the names of the birds I was photographing. I’m becoming quite a birdwatcher, too,” he smiles.

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Finding Gilchrist’s pictures:

David Gilchrist’s photos can be found in these Facebook groups:

NOTL Today

Classic Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara Bird Watchers

Ontario Bird Photographers

Niagara Photography Group

Ontario Photography

Canadian Divers

Global Diving Community

Wetpixel Underwater Photography

Search ‘David Gilchrist’ in any of these groups.

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