Lemon Shark in Bora Bora

Lemon Shark in Bora Bora

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Scuba Diving on The Arabia Wreck-Fathom Five Marine Park, Tobermory Ontario

At the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula that extends like a long crooked finger to form a natural divide between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay you will find the quaint town of Tobermory.

 Tobermory is a sleepy little village of just over 600 permanent residents all winter long but when the snow melts that number explodes as divers make the pilgrimage north to explore Canada’s first underwater national park

 Fathom Five National Marine Park was created in 1987, for the 15 years prior to that it was designated a Provincial Underwater Park  This underwater playground houses 22 ship wrecks like the famous Arabia, the intentionally scuttled Niagara II and the Forrest City, three of my favorites. The Park also offers numerous geological wonders to enjoy underwater such as the caves, the grotto, north otter wall and the lighthouse.
There is a plethora of dive boats to take advantage of but also you will find several worthwhile shore dives. There are also several other wrecks located just outside the parks boundary that you are free to enjoy as well.  Aside from the many beautiful sites to explore underwater the area offers a vast array of entertainment options to enjoy during your surface interval.  There is a large Visitor center, lots of shops and great restaurants.  You can take a glass bottom boat to explore some of the shallow wrecks such as the W.L. Wetmore or the James C. King.

 Many also enjoy a good hike or bike ride through the rugged Canadian wilderness. Witness the pitting and scouring of the limestone as huge rocks were dragged south by the receding glaciers.  A boat ride out to the towering limestone formation called Flowerpot Island or even take the ChiChiMon ferry over to visit the remote Manitoulin Island.

 There are plenty of hotels, bed and breakfasts and a great selection of campgrounds to accommodate your every need. The water is clear and offers good visibility and surprisingly few zebra mussels.  However it does tend to be a bit on the chilly side ranging from the mid 40’s to the low 60’s at the surface. 

This is a good place to use your dry suit but many divers get by just fine in a 7mm wet suit.  I will in time write about several of the fantastic dives in Fathom Five but first I am going to focus on The Arabia a 131’ three masted barque was launched in Kingston Ontario in 1853 and a year later she crossed the Atlantic Ocean with a cargo bound for Scotland

  In 1883 she ran aground near Flowerpot Island but was refloated and only a year later she foundered in rough weather just off Echo Island October 4th 1884.  She was loaded with a cargo of grain headed from Chicago to Midland when she started to take on water. 

The crew of 4 plus the ships dog put up a great fight for several hours manning the pumps and doing their best to keep ahead of the water coming in but eventually the water won.  All 4 crew members and the dog were able to safely leave the ship and she went down in about 108’ of water.

  Now she lays upright and mostly intact pointing north The Arabia has two mooring buoys marking her final resting spot. When diving this wreck try to tie off on the furthest buoy to the north this will bring you down on the bow.  You will see her majestic bowsprit, or jib boom complete with anchor chains running down its length. 

You can really appreciate the great condition this wreck is in thanks to the cold fresh water of the great lakes.  You can clearly make out the 2 large anchors, a windlass, some deadeyes, and a bilge pump no doubt one of the last things used by her crew.  Just behind here you will come to a broken mast laying across the port rail.  Also visible is the ships large centerboard.  As you approach the stern you will see that her stern has broken off but you can find the ships wheel in pretty good shape.  

This wreck is deep and cold and at times you will find a current as well as limited visibility.  Watch your bottom time and closely monitor your air pressure because though this ship went down without any casualties 13 divers have lost their lives exploring the wreck since it was discovered in 1971.  It is an advanced dive and you want to be sure you have the correct training and equipment before you make the dive.  Overall a fantastic dive and one of the most popular dives in the park and any trip to Fathom Five should include the Arabia.


  1. This is a great blog keep it up!

  2. Thank you very much. I appreciate the feedback

  3. Great Blog, love the pics

  4. Thank you very much, the pictures do not do it justice. To truely appreciate this wreck you need to dive it. But again thanks for the comments I hope you enjoy my stories

  5. Great Blog I am not a diver I actually came to your page by mistake but I am glad that I did. You have a talent for writing. I may just learn to dive