By Sue Deschene - The Recorder and Times
Thanks to thousands of dollars raised, and at least as many hours of volunteer labour logged, a plaque now stands on Blockhouse Island to commemorate five shipwrecks resting at the bottom of the St. Lawrence River.
The Thousand Islands chapter of Save Ontario Shipwrecks (SOS) hosted its unveiling Saturday of a plaque to mark five sunken treasures in the Brockville area. This new plaque is located on the east side of Blockhouse Island, across from the canteen.
The plaque depicts five sunken ships -the Muscallonge, Robert Gaskin, J.B. King, Lillie Parsons and Henry C. Daryaw -on a locator map, along with a picture and information about each one. GPS co-ordinates are included for each shipwreck.
Project director Doug Miller spearheaded the committee of local volunteers who brought the plaque from its earliest planning stages to fruition.
"The first thing we did was a bunch of fundraising, and we set our sights on a land plaque," Miller recalled. "After we got all our ideas sorted out, then we went to Doug Grant, our graphic artist, and he came up with a design that helped it fit a lot of the other land plaques that we have."
Then the local SOS chapter approached the City of Brockville for permission to post the plaque on Blockhouse Island. The city agreed that once the plaque was erected, it would become city property, joining all the other heritage plaques maintained by the city.
"This is to let the general public know what all the excitement is about," Miller said. "They've prob-ably noticed that there's lots of divers in the area, but why are they coming to Brockville? Well, this tells them why."
"Most of our plaques are underwater," added Brian Prince, SOS past president and board member. "In the last few years, we've been putting up land plaques... to give the general public an appreciation of our marine heritage."
SOS had previously posted four other commemorative land plaques in eastern Ontario: Braeside (the Red Pine Bay Wreck), Prescott (the Rothesay) and Cardinal (the Conestoga and the Weehawk).
Save Ontario Shipwrecks is a provincial heritage organization dedicated to studying, preserv-ing and promoting an apprecia-tion of Ontario's marine heritage.The diving community plays a major role in the initiative.
Brockville has become a prime scuba-diving attraction thanks to its warm, crystal-clear waters, said Prince.