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Neat new tool for shipwreck enthusiasts

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 2:04 PM -

In the centuries since the Americas were encountered by Europeans, there's been an awful lot of ocean-going trade. So when the inevitable storm or stint of bad seamanship hit, there were plenty of opportunities for shipwrecks.

And by plenty, we mean around 13,000.

Behold the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s database of wrecks and obstructions:

Within, you'll see all of those 20,000 objects, and whatever information NOAA has on them, listed in their exact locations, all along the U.S. maritime coasts and Great Lakes.

You can see them in your browser by clicking on this link, with not just the wreck locations, but also whether they're sunken, visible, or otherwise. It was launched in 2013, but it's been making the rounds again due to a new improvement that combined data from two different databases.

But although NOAA only covers wrecks and other objects in American waters, and isn't obligated to include the same for Canadian waters, there are nevertheless a few that made the list.

If you're big on history, though, you may be left a little disappointed. Most entries will only give you a name.

Still, there's a few little tidbits in there. Look near the Thousand Islands near Kingston, and you'll find the wreck of the Harvey J. Kendall, a coal-fired cargo ship sunk in 1931, which NOAA assures the diligent searcher is an "excellent sport dive, with many fish and abundant plant growth."

Image: NOAA

Image: NOAA

Not far from there is the S.S. Oatland, a grainship sunk in the 1930s and later broke in two parts.

Nip over to the East Coast, however, and the names and stories become a little ominous. There are none listed in Quebec waters (the Empress of Ireland is absent), but there are plenty around Nova Scotia and New Brunswick's Fundy Shore.

Some, like the S.S. Beaverhill, are listed, simply, as "marine casualties" (that ship ran aground right off the city of Saint John, N.B., in 1944).

But some, like the S.S. Dornfontein in 1918, northwest of Yarmouth, N.S., are listed as outright sunk: Usually by submarine. There are a few like those, from both world wars, and their close proximity to our shores, well within Canadian waters, gives you a very real visualization of how close the war hit to home.

There are plenty of gaps in the database (it's meant for American audiences), but if you spot a name and want to know more about it, there are sources for you. 

DiveKingston.net has a good number of Canadian sites to peruse, but an even better resource is www.wrecksite.eu, which fills in some important information gaps, and includes vintage pictures, maps and other media.

Shame NOAA didn't include more Canadian Content in its database, but what's there is a gateway to more detailed exploration by the curious.

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