Review by John Tapley; photos courtesy Erik Petkovic
Since the emergence of scuba diving, exploring shipwrecks has been a favorite flavor for avid adventurers who dip into worlds unseen by most: natural, watery environments juxtaposed with vessels, some mini and others mighty, that represent human innovation and grit. Great Lakes shipwrecks are especially treasured for their importance in shaping the north-northeastern United States throughout its infancy – maritime history is big in the upper Midwest. Among these massive bodies of water is Lake Erie, which borders four U.S. states and provides a bevy of wrecks waiting to be explored and appreciated.
Lake Erie Technical Wreck Diving Guide by veteran wreck explorer and researcher Erik Petkovic unveils 19 of the estimated 2,000 shipwrecks that dot the lake’s floor, providing highly detailed accounts that cover every spectrum of every dive destination. How deep does the Sir C T van Straubenzee reach? For what purpose was the John J. Boland constructed and when did she sink? Is the Acme still intact and what is the best way to reach her? Which dives are must-dos and which are duds?
Scuba explorers interested in diving Lake Erie’s bountiful shipwrecks will enjoy Petkovic’s deeply exhaustive coverage of each site. Each entry includes an overview, highlighting wreck stats such as depth, visibility, water temperature, tonnage, length, and many others. Safety is paramount in scuba diving, especially in deeper wrecks, and the author provides comments on hazardous conditions pertinent to divers.
At the center of each chapter is the spirit of adventure that fuels wreck diving, and through captivating prose and detail, Petkovic opens these worlds to his readers. While illustrating these many underwater zones, he does so earnestly and honestly, detailing each experience for better or worse – worms and all; toe to tip – and includes accounts from other divers who have braved the chilling depths.
Petkovic’s catalogue is intricately researched and detailed, with personal accounts, vintage newspaper clips, scientific finds, and other sources cementing the rich history of these submerged time capsules. The author highlights the chronology of each wreck, from shipyard to watery grave, while deftly illustrating the ingenuity and purpose that created them. Stories of triumph and defeat – rugged exploration and inclement weather – are shared in a manner that is skillfully comprehensive without being verbose, pulling the reader, comfortably, into yesteryear.
This level of detail is carried into shipwreck mysteries and queries that to this day have been unresolved, wherein the author provides ample interpretations. Chapter 6, “Dunkirk Schooner”, for example, covers the mysterious titular wreck, the many efforts made by divers to identify it, and the challenges in accessing the wreck and weaving it into maritime history. Near the end of this section, Petkovic provides several examples of lost ships that could be the Dunkirk (or “Schooner G”) and applies the same level of care and craftmanship to each sub-section.
Lake Erie Technical Wreck Diving Guide spans 178 pages, and its design complements the book’s dedicated, comprehensive approach, providing a swath of extras for its readers. The guide includes a listing for a nearby charter operator and lodging options and a handy glossary that describes important terms from gunwales to turnbuckles. Each core chapter is accented by highlighted tabs that indicate the wreck and rest on the readers’ thumbs, connecting them to the subject. The book concludes with a list of recommended works to further nourish readers on maritime history and provides ample sources for every historical statement.
Overall, this reviewer found Lake Erie Technical Wreck Diving Guide to be as captivating as it is comprehensive. Equal parts historic compendium and dive guide, the book weaves these subjects together to form an all-encompassing narrative, which draws the reader in and provides the right degree of details and facts without dragging out its pace. This is a must for wreck divers, maritime history enthusiasts, and anyone interested in delving into an era gone but not forgotten.
Lake Erie Technical Wreck Diving Guide is published by Dived Up Publications, Oxford, United Kingdom, and is printed by Lightning Source; its ISBN is 978-1-909455-27-6. The guide sells for $24.95 and can be purchased at www.erikpetkovic.com.
Erik Petkovic is an explorer, wreck diver, and shipwreck researcher who has over 20 years of diving experience. Erik regularly dives the wrecks in the Great Lakes and along the US East Coast. Erik has published articles in dive magazines worldwide. He is the author of two books on Great Lakes shipwrecks – “Shipwrecks of Lake Erie Volume One” and “Lake Erie Technical Wreck Diving Guide”. Erik has presented at dive shows across the country and his presentations are popular due to his unique style of audience engagement.