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Niagara Falls
Sunday, April 14, 2024
Sand sucker lives on as dive wreck

The photo of the sand sucker ship published in Jim Smith’s Exploring Photos column in The Lake Report last month prompted one of our readers to share an interesting story about one specific sand sucker that once operated daily on Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Niagara River. 

 Local dive instructor Joseph Mulholland called TLR to point out that one of the 3 sand suckers that used to dredge sand from the Niagara River in the 1960s, is now a dive site. The Niagara was purposely sunk as a dive site in May 1999, just outside of Fathom Five National Marine Park in Tobermory. Seeing the sand sucker in the paper stirred up some diving memories for Mulholland, who says in the past he took dive students to Tobermory every weekend from May 24 to Thanksgiving, for six years running. “The Niagara is amazing for training, because it’s all wide open, it was an absolute blast to dive on.” Mulholland explains that the ship was well prepared for safe diving, with “everything that could possibly snag a diver removed, so it’s like a swim through, very safe.” When The Niagara was sunk, Mulholland says it was done strategically, “placed so novice divers can go around at the top, where the wheelhouse is only at a depth of 50 feet.”  The maximum depth is 90 feet, making it appealing to more advanced divers as well. Mulholland says “divers are enamoured of shipwrecks, they want to find one, go into it, and look out. The Niagara is great because you can swim to the steering wheel and look out the window, and divers are curious to find that feeling in a wreck.”


Photo credit: David Gilchrist

Another local diver, David Gilchrist, says he has dived The Niagara  “a dozen times or more.” Gilchrist says “it’s a wonderful dive site, because the ship is intact.” Gilchrist says it was quite a process to transform the working ship into a dive site. He says “it had to be cleaned up, and made safe for divers. Large holes were cut in the sides to allow divers to enter and exit the wreck.” Once it was towed to Tobermory, “the Peel Regional Police bomb squad set an explosion to sink the ship.” According to Gilchrist “it’s a very popular wreck, and it takes the pressure off some of the older shipwrecks in the area, because it’s a great wreck to use for training.” 

Mulholland adds, “it’s cool that we can still see it and it’s still serving a purpose.”

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