Haunting video shows perfectly preserved wreck of classic steamship Gunilda
by Rob Peake
A fascinating video by a team of Florida-based divers shows one of the best-preserved historic wrecks in the world, 59.43 metre Gunilda.
Gunilda was for years one of the diving community’s most sought-after wrecks. She sank in 265ft of water in Lake Superior, Canada, in 1911, just 14 years after she was built by a yard in Leith, Scotland. At the time she was owned by oil baron William Harkness, who on August 11, 1911, made the fatal mistake of not hiring a local pilot as he took a group of his well-to-do friends through a passage between two of the lake’s islands. The boat hit a rock and started taking on water quickly. The passengers had time to get to shore safely, but when Harkness apparently refused to call out a second tug to attempt to tow Gunilda to safety, she sank beneath the lake’s waters.
Attempts by divers over the next few years failed to find any trace of the wreck and Lloyds of London eventually paid out on the $100,000 insurance policy.
The 195ft luxury steam boat remained very much in the minds of locals, however, and attempts were made using early diving equipment to find the wreck. Nothing was found for decades, but in 1967 a diver called Chuck Zender discovered her using SCUBA gear and claimed there might be $3.5 million on board.
The full story of the subsequent quest for _Gunilda _by many other brave divers is told in fascinating detail on website www.therebreathersite.nl
As the website makes clear, the man who led the drive more than any other was Fred Bronelle, who formed a company to try to raise her. His company Deep Diving Systems made numerous dives using different diving apparatus and also using mini-subs. The story is not without tragedy – on August 1970, Bronelle’s dive partner Charles King Hague never returned from a dive to the ship. His body was recovered seven years later.
The depth of Gunilda, at between 245ft to 255ft, meant Bronelle’s team were operating at the limits of diving technology. French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau also dived on the wreck and called her the best-preserved, most prestigious shipwreck in the world, making a documentary of his experience.
The latest video comes from Jarrod Jablonski, with photos taken by David Rhea, both divers from Global Underwater Explorers, a worldwide operation with headquarters in Florida, USA. The short film is full of atmosphere and gives eerie but fascinating views of the immaculately preserved ship’s fittings, cabins, walkways, helm station and more. Jablonski makes a plea for all divers to leave the wreck in peace and let her remain the priceless historical artefact that she is.