Here is an article from yesterday's Hamilton Spec. The last paragraph is encouraging. - RP
1812 warships well protected from souvenir-hunting divers
By Paul Morse
The Hamilton Spectator
Don't stop your pleasure boat about 11 kilometres north of St. Catharines on Lake Ontario.
If you do, expect a rapid visit from the Niagara police marine unit demanding to know why you've come to a stop above the Hamilton and the Scourge, a pair of armed American warships that sank in a squall nearly 200 years ago.
And heaven help you if you have technical diving equipment aboard -- souvenir hunters at the national historic site are definitely not wanted.
A state-of-the-art surface radar surveillance system will begin to sweep the lake above the nearly perfectly preserved schooners, which are owned by the City of Hamilton, next month.
It's hooked up to a sophisticated computer programmed to automatically call the Niagara police marine unit if certain parameters are met. If you are a small boat lurking in the waters near the site, police will be dispatched. Just how small or large a boat and the length of time caught in the hot zone will trigger the alarm are classified.
The Hamilton and Scourge were merchant schooners pressed into American naval service during the War of 1812. They capsized and sank during a violent storm in August 1813, and accounts suggest more than 50 sailors drowned that day.
The two ships came to rest on the lake bottom 91 metres (300 feet) down, where the near-freezing fresh water and absence of light have almost perfectly preserved the wrecks.
Project manager Ian Kerr-Wilson said the $180,000 system is sensitive enough to distinguish between surface vessels and aircraft, and smart enough to disregard a big cargo ship or ferry.
"It's an incredibly important site of international value," said the curator of several Hamilton museums.
Kerr-Wilson has heard rumours of divers reaching the site.
Marine historians and archeologists worry that scuba diving technology using special diving gases has opened the door to more recreational divers reaching the deeper depths.
Kerr-Wilson admits only a minority of sport divers are able to reach the Hamilton and Scourge.
"The number of people who can do the dive is growing every day," he said.
"It's not that people are necessarily going to do damage, but because we don't know who is there, when we go back to the site, we don't know what we're looking at is the result of being underwater for 200 years or because someone has come by and disturbed it."
Protecting the site means installing a burglar alarm.
But archeologists are also worried about the risk of lake freighters or ocean-going vessels "dropping who knows what on top of the site," or damaging the warship with anchors.
The good news is that, while no one has surveyed the Hamilton and Scourge up close since Ballard's expedition in 1991, a high-resolution three-dimensional multibeam sonar scan by the Canadian Hydrographic Service three weeks ago showed no significant damage.
> From: "Kevin Windsor" <kevin.windsor@...>
> Date: 2004/07/30 Fri AM 08:45:35 EST
> To: <WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com>
> Subject: Re: [WarOf1812] Reburial at Sea
> Also along those lines, I have also heard that they have installed alarms on
> the Hamilton and Scourge to prevent relic collectors.
> Well done!!
> ----- Original Message -----
> > Work on what is believed to be the oldest wreck found on the Great Lakes
> > is completed. The vessel may be the "Weazell", built in Detroit in 1788,
> > which sank near the mouth of the Saugeen River near Southampton, Ontario,
> > Canada in 1798. It will be reburied on the beach until more funding is
> > available.
> The War of 1812: In Europe, thousands fought over the fate of hundreds of square miles: in North America, hundreds determined the fate of THOUSANDS of square miles...
> Unit Contact information for North America:
> Crown Forces Unit Listing:
> American Forces Unit Lisiting
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