An expedition this month to the SS City of Ainsworth found the historic Kootenay Lake shipwreck remains in generally good condition.
“We were all very excited to see that the vessel hasn’t deteriorated as much as we might have thought,” says Bill Meekel of the Underwater Archaeological Society of BC, who led the search.
“At least the hull and main structure of the [lower] deck and paddlewheel were all still pretty much intact. It’s still three dimensional.”
Meekel’s party included society members Eric and Bronwen Young, plus Darren Muntak, and Brian Nadwidny.
Working from the Kaslo Shipyards vessel Candide, they used sidescan sonar and a remotely-operated vehicle to locate and inspect the ship, which has only been seen a handful of times since it sank in 1898, taking nine lives.
Meekel also led an expedition last fall, which inspected the Ainsworth’s debris field.
He says their first challenge this time was finding the ship, which rests 117 metres underwater off Crawford Bay. Although they had global positioning coordinates from a 1990 survey of the wreck, they no longer apply under today’s system.
“We didn’t really have even a starting point last year when we were looking,” he says.
“We went back to the original data, based on some simple angles and triangulation off a couple landmarks. We used that and satellite images to come up with new lattitude and longitude for where the wreck should have been.”
Although they had some problems with shifting winds, the sonar confirmed something was down there. But they had to wait a day for better weather before they could drop the video camera-equipped robot and verify it as the Ainsworth.