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The wreck of the Conestoga
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Conestoga
Anyone who goes diving is responsible for his own safety and training.
Aquadyne makes no recommendations as to you or your diving party's suitability for any particular dive site.
By William Schleihauf
You can click ont the pictures to enlarge them.
Brief history
The steamship Conestoga (ie SS Conestoga) was a combined passenger/cargo carrying vessel, built in 1878 in Cleveland Ohio. She was sold to a Canadian company in 1919. On 22 May, 1922, she caught fire when loaded with a cargo of wheat and sank where she lies today.
  • Length: 25.3 feet
  • Beam: 36 feet
  • Draught: 16 feet

Dive Data
Nearest town Cardinal, Ontario
Location Alongside the south bank of the Gallop Canal, southwest of the town, just past the Legion Hall.
Accsss The wreck is 20 meters from shore.
Depth Less than 10 meters.
Current From 2 to 2 knots.
Visibility generally good - sometimes 15 meters or better it is very dependant upon time-of-year, runoff, etc.
Temperature very dependant upon time of year! During the summer, it can get near 70F.
The Conestoga bow
To get there
  • Leave Montreal and west towards Ontario, you're goal being Highway 401 (Highway 20 becomes the 401 at the Ontario border).
  • At exit 730, head south (towards the St. Lawrence) on Route 22.
  • After a few kilometres, you will come to an intersection with Highway 2 (the King's highway): keep heading south towards the little bridge over the canal visible just in front of you.
  • You need to make your way to the small park on the south bank of the canal - you'll see a branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, with a small artillery piece alongside. Follow the track (heading west) along the bank of the canal.
  • Keep going until you see a large, weird-looking, metal projection sticking out of the river, maybe 10 metres from shore: that's the wreck of the Conestoga.
  • (be warned: the road is unpaved oftimes muddy, full of potholes, and tricky if your car doesn't have much ground clearance).
Inside at the bow. In front
of the heap of anchor cable
lies the remains of a windlass.
Diving
The wreck is generally considered suitable for newly certified divers: shallow depth; extremely easy access from shore; and an interesting dive. The primary hazard is the current- depending upon the time of year, it is usually around 2 knots, but can get faster. Generally, there is not much boat traffic near the wreck, but as always it is advisable to tow a diver-down flag.

One of the many fragments
of a long-gone era of
steam engineering.
    The ship lies with her bow upstream. That black metal bit sticking out of the water is part of her engine, and is near the stern of the vessel. The easiest way to dive her is to enter the water well upstream, and drift down with the current to that metal projection. Grab hold, and use it as a guide to submerge. Work your way forward inside the hull (the boiler lies just in front of that engine bit) towards the hull, and then you can drift back outside the wreck with the current.

A small windlass at
the stern of the ship.
    An alternative (perhaps better for the more experienced diver) is to submerge as you enter the water and strike out directly south towards the wreck underwater - do this at or just upstream from the metal projection.
    The Conestoga lies upright, parallel to the canal bank. All internal decking has long-since collapsed, and is in effect just the hull standing some 10-15 proud of the bottom. There are quite a few interesting bits of
The rudder has fallen away
from the ship, and now lies
about 15 feet astern.
machinery tumbled about inside the hull: the remains of the engine; the boiler (and condensor?); structural components of the ship herself; hot water radiators; and a tumble of anchor cable and windlass in the very eyes of the ship.
    Anyone with an interest in naval architecture is in for a treat - the Conestoga was built in the late 1870's, and has features typical of her era. Worth noting is the wooden hull, that was sheathed in iron. There are usually quite a few fish to be seen: smallmouth bass; perch; rock bass; and sometimes suckers and/or small pike as you make your way to/from the wreck itself.
What is It?
The "Wishbone"
I would really like to know what this "wishbone" arrangement between the propeller and hull is! Any ideas will be gratefully received (and posted here) mailto:bills@gwpda.org
Starboard side
    The photo on the left is a view from the portside of the ship, showing the propeller and prop shaft. Part of one of the propeller blades has broken off, and lies in the sand just out of view. When lightly dusted with silt, there are some manufacturer's markings almost legible!

Sources:
  • Dive Ontario! by Chris Kohl (self-published, 1990)
  • A Report of the Marine Archaeological Survey by SOS Conestoga (SOS Conestoga, 1984)

Photographs
This handful of photographs, all taken 4 October 1998, give a peek at what the wreck is like today (all photographs copyright William Schleihauf, 1998).

Problems or comments? Please contact mailto:Marc.Dufour@emdx.qc.ca.
©1999, club Aquadyne.
Web site created by Marc Dufour.