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Published: Tuesday, 11/13/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Annual event brings maritime history to life

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Mike Fletcher Mike Fletcher
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With so many maritime anniversaries to choose from, organizers said it was difficult to narrow down the focus for the upcoming Shipwrecks and Scuba event taking place in Huron, Ohio, on Saturday.

So, to honor the centennial of both the War of 1812 and the sinking of the RMS Titantic, organizers of the annual show decided to highlight them both.

Throw in a presentation by Canadian Mike Fletcher, who sailed around the world with adventure novelist and marine archeologist Clive Cussler, and the 29th annual Shipwrecks and Scuba program is what organizers believe “might be the best one we’ve ever put on.”

“It’s become a platform to advocate Great Lakes diving and to share the real treasure that we have in Lake Erie, not gold and platinum and silver, but instead the living history,” said Mike Wachter, who, with Ron Smith, is co-chairman of the event. “… We want to reach out to those who have an interest in history and shipwrecks.”

IF YOU GO

Registration is required. Go online at www.shipwrecksandscuba.com.

Tickets are $70 for the full day, including dinner, or tickets can be purchased for individual sessions.

Shipwrecks and Scuba will be held at Sawmill Creek Resort & Lodge, 400 Sawmill Creek Drive West in Huron.

Organized each year by Bay Area Divers, Inc., a local scuba diving organization, the annual event was begun as a means to bring the love of scuba diving to the general public and also create a forum where divers could get together in the off-season.

Since its inception, the event has brought to Ohio speakers from around the world.

This year, the day-long program is highlighted by a presentation on the Battle of Lake Erie given by a retired historian from the National Park Service who spent many years as the chief ranger for Perry's Victory & International Peace Memorial at Put-in-Bay. Gerry Altoff of Williamsburg, Va., will discuss the September, 1813, battle between the Americans led by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry and a fleet of English ships.

Organizers said the presentation will leave spectators feeling as if they, themselves, were experiencing the splintering wood as cannonballs exploded through the side of a ship.

Jim Wilson, president of Bay Area Divers, said the allure of historical events is often lost unless there are people around to explain the significance and share the stories. He said that stories are the key to the Saturday event.

“When we dive ships, sometimes they’re not intact and people will tell us that they look like piles of boards. And that’s true, unless you know the story,” Mr. Wilson said.

The Titanic will be the focus of a presentation called “Women and Children First: Stories of Titanic Survivors and the Brave Souls Who Stayed Behind.” The presentation will feature stories of the survivors of the historic sinking as well as those who perished on April 15, 1912, Mr. Wachter said.

Also being featured during presentations are Lake Huron shipwrecks, a Lake Erie shipwreck mooring project, and the recent discovery of the 127 foot Brigantine Sultan off Cleveland.

Mr. Wachter and his wife, Georgann, will also be detailing the story behind the Jay Gould and the Commodore — two shipwrecks in Lake Erie.

“The event particularly lets someone who can’t go diving, ether because they don’t want to or are unable to, enjoy what we enjoy when we dive on these shipwrecks,” Mr. Wachter said. “And on the other side, it provides the history enthusiasts and those who love the Great Lakes with a wonderful set of tales. We never do a program that just shows the pretty shipwreck. Instead, there are wonderful little pieces of history involved.”



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