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  Side-Scan Sonar Image of Edmund Fitzgerald

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Author Topic:   Side-Scan Sonar Image of Edmund Fitzgerald
K Albus posted 04-01-2008 10:21 AM ET (US)   Profile for K Albus   Send Email to K Albus  
With all of the concurrent threads regarding sonar images, I thought some people might like to see what Jim has said he is after. A side-scan sonar image of the wreckage of the Edmund Fitzgerald is available at the bottom of the following web page: http://www.cleveland.com/edmund/wide/index.ssf?/edmund/wide/graphic.html

Wikipedia also has a drawing showing the orientation of the wreck and the relative position of the hull parts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Image:Edmond_Fitzgerald_relative_position_of_wreck.jpg

jimh posted 04-01-2008 11:04 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Nice image, but probably from a tow fish style SONAR. I don't expect to get an image like that from the surface. It would be interesting just to see a bump on the bottom on an SONAR echogram.

A tow fish SONAR for recreational use still costs about $5,000 at a minimum. Also, I have heard some discussion that dragging a tow fish SONAR is considered "diving" on the wreck, and diving is now prohibited. It might be interesting to research that point of the regulations.

Also making it more interesting, the wreck straddles the international boundary. So there may be conflicting regulations. As we depend on K Albus for good (and free) maritime legal advice, let me as the question:

Can you pass over the wreck site in your recreational boat with your vessel-mounted (that is, not a tow fish) SONAR operating?

Can you just pass over the wreck site in your recreational boat, SONAR operation not considered?

K Albus posted 04-01-2008 11:59 AM ET (US)     Profile for K Albus  Send Email to K Albus     
Ask and you shall receive . . .

The Ontario Heritage Act protects the site of the wreck. Section 48 of the Act prohibits diving on the wreck, or operating any submersible vehicle or towed survey equipment (including sonar or cameras) within 500 meters of the wreck. See: http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/ elaws_statutes_90o18_e.htm#BK82 . (Click on No. 48).

The following is a link to the Ontario regulation designating the Edmund Fitzgerald wreck site as a Marine Archaeological Site: http://www.canlii.org/on/laws/regu/2006r.11/20080318/whole.html .

Finally, here's a link to a story relating the side-scan sonar picture from my previous post. It appears that there is some controversy as to whether the image was legally obtained. http://www.cdnn.info/news/industry/i050317.html . Based on my somewhat limited knowledge of the relevant facts, it is my understanding that the side-scan sonar image was obtained before the Edmund Fitzgerald site was officially designated a Marine Archaeological Site, and thus, it was not illegally obtained.

K Albus posted 04-01-2008 12:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for K Albus  Send Email to K Albus     
Jim, to more specifically answer your questions, there does not appear to be any prohibition regarding the operation of a recreational boat or its attached sonar equipment over the wreck site.

Also, although the wreck site is close to the international border, it is my understanding that the site is located in Canadian waters. See the NTSB Marine Accident Report, which indicates that the wreckage is located north of the international border: http://www.uscg.mil/HQ/G-CP/HISTORY/WEBSHIPWRECKS/ EdmundFitzgeraldNTSBReport.html

jimh posted 04-01-2008 01:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Thanks for the many citations.

By the way, the linked graphic in the Cleveland newspaper is a nice article and has nice drawings, but it makes a critical error in depicting the Fitz in a seaway. The drawing shows the Fitz encountering a head sea. The Fitz was running in a following sea.

Plotman posted 04-03-2008 10:58 AM ET (US)     Profile for Plotman  Send Email to Plotman     
What I find interesting reading all this is that while the site is in Canada, it is just barely so. The coordinates listed by the Ontario Government declaring the Fitz Wreck as an archeological site list its location as N46 59.9 and W85 06.6. The charts I have put the US border just 610 feet from this point. The rounding of coordinates to decimal tenths of a minute by itself introduces uncertainty of position of up to 300 feet. And we also know that the wreck site is fairly large, with the bow and stern sections being between 250 and 300 feet long, and lying some 170 feet apart. (see the wikipedia diagram). It would be interesting to know if indeed all the wreckage is indeed completely within Canada.

And while the Heritage act creates and exclusion zone for diving, towed sonar, extending in a 500 meter radius from the point listed, that would clearly put a big chunk of the circle in the us, as the point is just 186 meters from the border.

One could, theoretically, tow a sonar very close to one of the two large sections of the ship while staying on the US side of the border and not violate the letter of the law. This is, I believe, what the folks who made the image in the cleveland paper claim to have done.

jimh posted 04-03-2008 02:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
My recollection is that the bow of the wreck of the FITZ is in U.S. waters, and the stern section and its debris field is in Canadian waters.
Plotman posted 04-04-2008 11:48 AM ET (US)     Profile for Plotman  Send Email to Plotman     
Has the US enacted any legislation or rules similar to what the Canadians have done? If what Jim H says is true, and the US hasn't that would seem to raise an interesting set of circumstances.

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