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Thread: Gunilda Bell Missing?

  1. #1
    Member Deep Thought's Avatar
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    Gunilda Bell Missing?

    With the 100 year anniversary of the Gunilda running aground (August 21, 1911), and subsequently sinking during salvage. I thought it was an appropriate time to add a bit of history to how the bell of the Gunilda came to be missing and how it was recovered.

    I was fortunate to dive the Gunilda for several years before it became the popular attraction that it is today, and through the years it was sad to see bits and pieces damaged, hand rails broken, or doors torn off hinges…but the saddest year was in 2000 when we made the first dive of the season and saw that the bell, that adorned the bow, had been stolen! I was heartbroken as the bell of the Gunilda sitting in its place of honor was a majestic thing to see, and one of the “shiny” things that is most coveted by wreck divers, and for me shooting hi8 video, it was a focal point to the video. Well as it turned out it was not actually stolen, but sitting in the silt on the lower walking deck. I found out later it was accidentally knocked off the bow base when archeologist Scott M. was testing the integrity of the base. Divers for years have been wrenching on the bell as you can see stress marks in the goose neck, and of course the cracked bolts (see picture). When we discovered the bell resting in the silt below the bow deck, we immediately concocted a plan to replace it to its proper place on the next trip.

    Back in the early years, the myth of “Archeological Permit”, the random searches by OPP, SOS member Ryan LeBlanc, visits by MNR to confirm our permits were valid, No Touching The Wreck or Disturbing the Silt as dictated by permit, and scrutiny of locals watching us with spotting scopes was just part of diving the Gunilda. So when we concocted a plan to put the bell back on the bow deck base, we knew it had to be done in total secrecy.
    The next trip we choose to charter a local, Don Neilan (deceased), who had a nice little tug boat with small but reasonable stern and dive ladder. We did not announce our plan to the group of divers we invited along as it was just too dangerous with the chance of a slip of lip. On our first dive the objective was to sneak a bag of tools containing a drift pin to drive out the ½ bolt out of the 3” solid bow deck base, hammers, wrenches, sockets, etc…. this was quietly put over the stern and lowered into the water so we could retrieve it and take it down the stern mast mooring line. My dive buddy and I got into the water, and looked for the bag, then looked at each other…. who tied the bag to the rail??? Oh, S hit! The Gunilda being in total blackness 260 feet down, it was almost pointless thinking we could find this heavy bag of tools but we gave it a try. While swimming along the starboard side, looking in the mud, on the companionways, etc. I happened to look up and see the tool bag resting on the tip of the starboard life boat arm that hangs out over the ship– only in real life could something so preposterous occur but it did!

    I don’t know the true weight of the bell, but I would guess it weighed 60 – 70 pounds and working in the dark, silt, narcosis… it was a job that took a couple dives to accomplish. First driving the broken bits of the bolts out of the deck, then the top of the carriage bolt out of the bronze base so we could get a accurate measurement for replacement bolts. Here is a hint when shopping for bolts in Schreiber hardware store in a country that did adopt the metric system: don’t ask for 13mm carriage bolts as they only stock imperial sizes? What are they for you ask, oh nothing important. Well for lack of authentic material (bronze) we were forced to choose common steel, but the thought was there.

    Now I know this sounds totally cockeyed to a divers forum about shipwrecks when the front page is typically reserved for stories like the fantastic recovery of the Andria Doria bell, etc. But the point is that I was a founding member of a Great Lakes shipwreck preservation organization that had ideals for saving and restoring sunken wrecks, and I guess I like to see the shiny things on Great Lakes wrecks that will last for a few hundred more years if left undisturbed.

    Now on the 100th anniversary I look forward to shooting video with my HiDef video system and if luck prevails the bell will be resting in its proper place. And I’ll dig around in the silt below the bell, starboard side, as I know there is still an expensive socket that we dropped or by chance someone may have already discovered?

    The bolts are the only artifacts from the Gunida that I have ever removed, although I have been asked by Ned several times to donate any items to his museum, and now that I admitted this insignificant fact, it will probably result in the Mounties chasing me down next visit to Rossport :-)

    First photo shows the Gunilda bell leaning forward from years of divers trying to remove it

    Second photo shows bell missing and the oval outline

    Third photo shows the bell sitting in the silt below the raised deck

    Fourth photo shows the bell mounted back in place


    Divers name withheld
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
    Member Deep Thought's Avatar
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    Re: Gunilda Bell Missing?

    I forgot the bolts, and I'm thinking that divers must have taken the nuts off as this was the condition of the bolts as we found when driven out of the base.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  3. #3
    Junior Member GreatLakeDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Gunilda Bell Missing?

    That's a great post! Thanks for sharing it with us. I commend you for your work. I agree the bell is an amazing feature of the shipwreck. I wish more of the shipwrecks in the great lakes were in as good of condition as this one.

    One that comes to mind is the Regina. 2013 will be the 100th anniversary of the Great Storm. Its amazing looking at old pictures of the Regina and what was brought up vs what the wreck is now. I enjoy diving the Regina now, but wish it was left alone after it was first found. I hate seeing year after year, artifacts missing that were on the shipwreck the previous year.

    Anyway, I commend you work. Great job. I have yet to get out and dive this wreck. But it is on my list of want to dives. Now when I do dive it, it will be nice to have this story in the back of my mind as I admire the bell.

    Thanks!

  4. #4
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    Re: Gunilda Bell Missing?

    Great story. She is still like you remember!!! A great set of dives, and thanks for remounting the bell. We all appreciate it.

  5. #5
    Contributing Member K-Man's Avatar
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    Re: Gunilda Bell Missing?

    Great story and outstanding work!

    Kevin
    "A ship is safe in harbor, but then, that's not what ships are for." - William Shedd

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    Senior Member ljj's Avatar
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    Re: Gunilda Bell Missing?

    most excellent!! thanks for posting!!
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  7. #7
    Member ageddiver's Avatar
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    Re: Gunilda Bell Missing?

    I was fortunate enough to dive the Gunilda last month, and was glad to see the bell still there. It's a fantastically well-preserved wreck and in a beautiful, if remote, location. I highly recommend it. Here's a video tour of the outside of the wreck which while not very professional will give you an idea of what it looks like today. http://www.vimeo.com/15650356
    www.bostondeepwrecks.com

  8. #8
    Member Chantelle's Avatar
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    Re: Gunilda Bell Missing?

    Great story. Thank you for sharing.
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