The J.C. Morrison, Lake Simcoe, Barrie, Ontario
Pictures by Warren Lo © 2007WRECK INFO:
The J.C. Morrison was built in 1854 at Belle Ewart, and was launched in 1855 for the Ontario, Simcoe, and Huron Railway Company. The ship was named after the president of the company, Joseph Curran Morrison. One night in August of 1857, she caught fire and was set adrift in Kempenfelt Bay to avoid burning the docks. She burned to the waterline and sank in 30 feet of water.
The wreck of the J.C. Morrison is one of the most popular dive sites in the Southern Ontario region. In part, due to it's shallow 30 ft depth and it's easy accessibility. It is within an hour's drive of Toronto, and has plenty of room to allow divers to get geared up on shore as it is located just off Barrie's Centennial Beach. Typically done as a shore dive, it is a 10 minute swim out to the wreck, guided by a line that runs from shore.
Caution should be exercised, though, as boats, jet skis, and fishermen often are in the area around the wreck as many fish inhabit the wreck, especially in the summer months when the water is warm. As such, this wreck should be considered a virtual overhead environment as surfacing can be potentially hazardous due to the frequent boat traffic. Having a dive flag is arguably a good idea, as it has been seen that clueless jet skiers and boaters have used diver's flags as turning buoys, despite better judgement.
The wreck itself is pretty broken up, and can be difficult to be identified as a wreck. It lays primarily in three parts. The line leads to the bow of the wreck, to which a line and a jug are tied. Progressing beyond the bow section, you approach the second part of the wreck, distinguishable by a large A-frame, presumably where the paddle wheel would have been attached. Beyond that, you will find the paddle wheel itself.
Visibility is generally moderate - typically about 15-20 ft, and often times less. As well, the site is a popular training site for open water divers as it's shallow depth and availability of parking and area for setup on shore makes this an ideal site for training. Because of this, it can be very busy in the summer months, and visibility on the line to the wreck and at the wreck itself can be poor due to the frequent silting of the site, especially with the muddy bottom. For best visibility, it is generally best to be the first out to the wreck - and as always, be courteous to your fellow divers by exercising good trim and finning techniques to leave the site undisturbed.
All Photos copyright © Warren Lo, 2007