Adventurers Dive Log: Scuba Diving on the Arabia

Diving the Arabia

Photographs and Story by Tom Wilson

Build: Wooden Three-masted Barque
Depth: 106'
Length: 131'
Built: 1853 Sunk: 1884
Access: boat
Level: Advanced
Orientation: Upright
If Tobermory is considered the king of diving in Ontario the Arabia would be the jewel of his crown.
Inside the Fathom Five National Marine Park the Arabia is the most intact and most interesting of the 21 wrecks by far. Unfortunately it also has the distinction of being the site of the most fatalities (the most recent being in 1998).

If you have a choice between the two mooring lines opt for the bow because this is quite a different wreck depending on which end you dive it from and many people are not able to tour the whole ship on just an 80 cu/ft tank.

When starting at the bow you may well be under the impression the Arabia is still absolutely perfect without a plank out of place. The bowsprit is almost pristine, complete with hanging chains and seemingly nothing missing but a few feet off the end. Just behind there her two sizeable anchors still rest locked on the railings, and the windlass, blige pump and other machinery are incredibly well preserved by the frigid water. One of the sizeable masts lies over the port rail and the other two can be found nearby.

Heading aft from there things start to get a little messier. Although the railings and hull sides are in great shape the midsection of the ship is littered with debris and little that is recognizeable aside from the centerboard winch with large gear-wheels on the sides (making it look almost like a cart).

By the time you reach the stern things have really deteriorated. The vertical "end" of the stern is missing completely which may give you the impression there is little back here of interest, but drop over the starboard rail and you will find the wheel still attached to a section steering gear and a stone monument celebrating the wreck's 100th anniversary in 1984.

This site is perpetually cold even in the height of summer and sometimes has a current which adds to the level of difficulty. No lives were lost when this ship sank but 13 divers have perished here since the wreck was found in 1971.

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