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Divers hope to prove shipwreck from the War of 1812

A Queen’s University Psychiatry professor who studies how disease affects quality of life will be doing research of a very different sort this summer, in the murky depths of Lake Ontario.

Along with other volunteer divers, Dianne Groll hopes to resolve once and for all whether the remains of a 200-year-old shipwreck off the coast of Kingston is a flagship from the War of 1812. One of the project’s organizers, Dr. Groll will join nautical historians from throughout Ontario in surveying remains of what may be the Wolfe, the infamous warship of Captain Yeo.

The preparation work will begin the first weekend in May, when marine archaeologists from Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Service will run a course for Preserve our Wrecks Kingston to certify divers that could then go on to help in the survey.

“It’s delicate work,” says Dr.Groll, a member of Preserve our Wrecks Kingston “but it will be very exciting to finally identify this ship — especially if it turns out to be the flagship of the War of 1812, as we hope.”

Divers who complete the course in May will receive their Nautical Archaeology Society Level One certification. In early June, they’ll help other certified divers take measurements, drawings and photographs of the shipwreck.

The shipwreck is lying in about 50 feet of water in the mouth of Navy Bay. Organizers expect that about three weeks of people diving almost daily will be required to accurately survey the wreck.

Once the survey work is complete, marine archeologists will comb through archives at Queen’s and in Toronto and Ottawa to compare data and determine the identity of the ancient vessel. The group is looking for a variety of volunteers who would like to be part of the historical hunt.

“We need boats, and people to coordinate on-shore activities and take videos,” says Dr. Groll. “There are a number of opportunities to get involved.” And with the bicentennial anniversary of the War of 1812 quickly approaching, this identification could play a significant part of the celebrations.

For more information on the Nautical Archaeology Society course in May and the survey of the shipwreck in June, visit www.powkingston.org

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