Lighthouse Dispatches by Paul Morralee
When flipping backwards over the water, I realized that the rope had given way. Assembled around the dock were the real divers waiting to survey the waters around Porphyry, but I was not prepared. Sopping wet and somewhat shocked, I pulled myself back onto the dock to a gathering of curious (and several laughing) faces. The real dive would start soon.
Lighthouse life is often interrupted by unexpected events as you are in the wilds and at the mercy of the inland, fresh water sea. Through perseverance and endurance you can overcome most challenges but the lake is unrelenting.
Our visiting artist in residence, Dennis McGonagle, understood that as he captured beautiful waterscapes daily, yet he also had to run for cover on several occasions due to heavy rain.
Daily Dennis gave his review of his perspective on our environment to visitors and was bursting with superlatives at the stunning beauty he witnessed. It’s through the eyes of others that we can collect more of an objective view of our surroundings and realize as locals what we have to share.
Iloe, the Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior (CLLS) assistant light keeper and summer student, is armed with many books to be ready for her fall semester, but there is lots of work to be done during the daylight hours.
The lighthouse site is getting a brush up with new red and white paint and many visitors are remarking for the first time that the site is looking as it had twenty years ago.
Now that the summer season is well upon us the boating traffic is picking up. A freighter canoe, kayakers, keen sailors and power boaters are remarking on the tempestuous weather kissed with occasional spots of sunshine and calm waters. They are always happy to reach the island shores and the tended facilities.
Members of the Save Ontario Shipwrecks- Superior Chapter, zip up their dry suits, don masks, fins and tanks for an eco-dive of the Porphyry cove. This is where since 1960 light keepers and workers kept their boats and received supplies for the islands.
The first of many dives was to survey the underwater lake bed for artifacts and later to remove any garbage. This is done under a license from the Ontario Government, as some members of the group are certified to undertake archeological work.
Through a grid pattern four divers, and a spotter on the surface methodically review the lake bottom for items of interest. These items are then identified for further action with a bright marker put in place for later retrieval.
The spirit of this group to work with CLLS and combined forces is wonderful because it helps everyone realize what we have in our area above and below the waters.
As many are aware, lighthouses often have many wrecks around them and so later in the week several more dives will take place. Walkers Channel, Porphyry Point and Pringle Bay will all be surveyed for known wrecks.
Next week; we will hear about the return of the Graham Family to the Island 37 years after they left for other lighthouse duties and from Eileen K. Hennemann, our Artist in Residence, from southern Ontario, will share her observations.
Paul Morralee is Managing Director for the Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior Inc. established to preserve, protect and promote Lake Superior lighthouses. He’ll be sharing stories throughout the summer.