Next Meeting: Wednesday, February 28th

The UASC meets the last Wednesday of each month at the Chicago Maritime Museum located at 1200 West 35th Street, Suite OE5010, Chicago, IL 60609. Free event, ALL ARE WELCOME. Refreshments 6:30, Business 7:00, Speaker 8:00.


Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago



March 2017 Minutes PDF Print E-mail

Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago

Meeting Minutes

March 29, 2017

President Dean Nolan greeted thirty attendees, including two guests.

Secretary Carol Sommers stated that the minutes were available in paper copy on the table and on-line.

Treasurer John Bell reported that there was about $11,000 in the UASC account and dues were still coming in.  The booth at OWU was disappointing.

It was announced that Haigh Quarry was opening on this Saturday, April 1.

Dean presented the UASC award to Bob Rushman.  This award is for people who have been especially helpful. Bob has been president three times and instrumental in the Bucanneer clean-up before it was sunk in Lake Michigan as a dive site.  Bob was thankful and said it was very unexpected.

It was brought up that the trifold flyer about UASC needs to be updated.

Illinois Council of Skin and Suba Divers – Only one member, Vice President Colin Bertling, attended the Underwater Competition. As a result, UASC took first place because he joined Atlantis which only had three members (four are necessary to participate) and the combined clubs came in first. The next event is the Jim Haigh Memorial Dive which is on July 16.

Chicago Maritime Museum – Jim Jarecki announced that on the third Friday of April, Bob Nelson will be talking about Grebe’s boatyard.

Nautical Archaeological Society – Dave Thompson will present the archaeological illustration course starting at 9am on Saturday April 29 here at the Chicago Maritime Museum.  We will be using the conference room and it will last until late afternoon.  Bob Gadbois offered the use of a projector, if needed.  The next NAS activity will be the end of July when UASC will charter with Double Action.  They will give a 50% discount and UASC will take off 50% of that.  Inform Dean if you plan to go.  All summer, UASC will get a discount when on dives doing specific survey work. Keith Pearson will set aside Sunday afternoons for research dives.

Keith Pearson, the dive co-ordinator, was not present.

Other announcements:

Sam Polensky said that the Tritons will have an Open Water Class on June 1.  The location is 801 W. Kensington and one should contact Mike Liebovitz.  The five-session class costs $129 plus $65 materials.

Jim Jarecki attended the Shipwreck Histories and Mysteries held in Holland, Michigan.

Member short presentations:

Jim Jarecki showed some maritime photos with music. Colin Bertling will be presenting next month.

Carol Sommers spoke about the two wrecks she dived at Big Brother Island in the Red Sea in Egypt last October.  To reach this isolated island, located 60km off the coast, it’s necessary to fly to Cairo, overnight there and then fly to Hurghada where the Emperor Elite Company picks up divers at the airport and drives them three hours through the desert to Marsa Alam where the boat departs.  The island formation rises 800 meters from the seabed and there is a constant wind which may at times make it difficult to get close enough to dive. There can be strong currents. This is a marine park so there is no night diving and one must have fifty logged dives. Because of the island’s isolation, the wrecks and their sea life are in pristine condition and have no damage from boat anchors.

The Ada was built in France in 1911 for the Egyptian government. It was 1,428 gross registered tons, had a top speed of 9 knots and was 75.1m X 9.7m with a draft of 7m. She sunk for the first time in 1941 during the war, but was salved because her captain beached her.  It was in 1957 that the captain who was tasked to exchange military personnel on Big Brothers (which had an operating lighthouse) decided to sail despite a heavy storm and hit the rocks. A tug took off the 77 personnel and the Ada sunk with her bow embedded in the reef at 12m depth and the stern lying 60m below on a steep angle.  It is covered with hard and soft corals.  All steel work is present and there is easy access.  Despite 60 years underwater, the forward mast is largely intact.  One can see the center castle, ship’s funnel, a steam whistle and the three- cylinder triple expansion steam engine. A propeller lies at 60m deep.

The Numidia lies nearby and was a British cargo ship built in Glasgow in 1901.  She displaced 6,399 tons, had a top speed of 10 knots, a length of 1374m, width of 16.7m and a draft of 9.2m. She was on her second voyage with a cargo of 7,000 tons and a crew of 97.  After many hours at the wheel, the captain had set the course to miss the island by a mile, and went below to rest.  He woke up when the ship crashed onto the rocks right below the lighthouse.  The officer of the watch, who had probably fallen asleep, was later suspended from duties for 9 months. The engines were stopped after two hours of trying the get her off the rocks. Other ships tried to refloat her, but the crew got off and the captain stayed on the island for seven weeks to salvage most of the cargo before the ship sank. The bow is 8m deep and the stern lies at 80m. The ship is covered with coral, but one can see railway engine wheels which were carried as deck cargo and railings, masts, lifeboat davits, windlasses and deck winches which are all still in place.  There is a lot to explore for a technical diver.

The diving was usually done from a zodiac with divers swimming back to the mother ship.  On occasion, one had to get back into the zodiac which did not have a ladder.  The dive boat had a spacious deck and huge staterooms, each with several portholes, a closet area and a bathroom with a separate toilet and shower. English was the main language used and there were eight different nationalities. Fares were half the normal price and security very good throughout the trip, including hotels willing to pick up guests and helping them to get through customs faster.  Later dives, besides abundant fish and beautiful corals, included three with hammerheads and others with oceanic white tip sharks who liked to hang out under the moored dive boats and swim with divers during the safety stop.


Main Presentation:

Taras Lyssenko was one of the UASC members who helped set up A & T recovery in order to recover WWII aircraft from Lake Michigan. (Keith Pearson is another one.)  Around 130 planes sunk there during training missions for pilots to learn how to take off and land from aircraft carriers (in this case the converted lake ferries the Wolverine and the Sea and Bee). The carriers were docked at Navy Pier. Less than ten pilots were lost.  A&T does extensive research on the history of each plane, especially the families of pilots. In one case, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, founded by a pilot who was on the aircraft carrier of the same name, helped pay for the cost of raising a Hellcat fighter. Four generations of the family were present. McDonald’s also has funded recoveries. Planes underwater are deteriorating more rapidly because of the uric acid released by the zebra mussels which now cover them.  The recovered aircraft are taken to Waukegan where they are restored. The Underwater Archaeological Branch of the State of Illinois has complained that they aren’t restored fast enough by A&T, but one must realize that this is all done by volunteers of the Kalamazoo Air Club. They use snow scrapers to remove the mussels which possums actually like to eat. The Underwater Instrument panels are painted with radium, but nuclear energy and radiation are also a specialty of Taras and radium is only a problem if you actually eat it. He works with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

While searching for planes, A&T has found many shipwrecks and even an early Halocene forest which is 8,160 years old. Reports have been done on other planes that Taras has found, as the Goshawk and Thomas Hume. At a depth of 350 feet, there are wrecks so intact that the masts are standing up.  Other examples of wrecks he has found are St. Mary’s which is 105 feet deep and the Lady Elgin which sunk the same night and which is shallower.  Taras has co-ordinates to other wrecks and feels that they should be researched and their history presented to the American public.

During the Q & A, Taras was asked about the U boat in Lake Michigan.  After WWI, 170 U boats were turned over to the Allies. In 1918 UC97, a coastal mine liner which never went to sea, was allotted to Great Britain who in turn gave it to the US in 1919.  This was proven by documents which were projected on the screen.  The boat is lying at a depth of 350 feet because according to the Armistice made with Germany the US Navy had to destroy the sub by a certain date.  A small shell hole is the only damage done and Taras would like to raise the sub.  It is in good condition because it is made of steel and could be cleaned by sandblasting.  It would cost fifty million dollars to raise, but it is the only WWI submarine in good condition that exists in the world.  There is one off the coast of San Diego, but it is like Swiss cheese because of the action of the salt water.  The Museum of Science and Industry spent twenty million dollars for the building which now houses the U505 and Taras feels it would be perfect to have a WWI sub in a building next to it.  Despite the records which we saw, there is a dispute and lawsuit as to who owns the submarine so this is an ongoing story to be continued……

The next meeting is April 26 and our speaker will be Ted Karamanski who will talk about Great Lakes Navigation and Lighthouses.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:27.

Minutes respectfully submitted by Carol Sommers





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