The original format of this video was in 1080p. However, the file was too big for Vimeo to upload. Therefore, I had to reduce the video quality to 720p, my apologies. This was shot with a GoPro Hero HD, with a Mako Spearguns flat lens port.

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This dive was on July 3, 2011. Amazing weather, dive buddies and visibility. The Tunstall was a state-of-the-art steamship. Over two hundred feet long, the powerful, steel-hulled steamer was barely four years old. On May 3, 1883, she left Pictou, Nova Scotia, with a load of coal. It was her first voyage of the season, and she was bound for Montreal.

For the first day or so, Tunstall made fine progress. But as she neared East Point she found pack ice - as far as the eye could see. Captain Mackie decided to try his luck to the south, but a day later he ran into the same ice pack at Cape Traverse. There seemed no choice but to turn around and set course again for East Point.

The next two days were spent in ice and fog, bouncing alternately between north and south headings. Sailing south near Georgetown, Tunstall encountered another steamer, SS Benona, and the two decided to team up until they could find their way to clear water. Together, they finally found a path around East Point, and some time during the night Benona actually found a lead and sailed to safety. All Tunstall found was more ice. Come morning she found herself all alone, with no place to turn.

Steel-hulled vessels like Tunstall had a few advantages when it came to dealing with ice. Unlike its wooden counterparts, Tunstall could bump into the occasional ice pan and be little worse for wear. Free from a reliance on sail power, she could weave a path through the pans when heavy ice was present. Or beat a retreat to clear water. But she was not meant to stay in close, intimate company with an entire ice field. On May 12, after the ice closed in and cut off Tunstall's last avenues of retreat, the steamer's fate was sealed.

It was somewhere off Covehead, Captain Mackie reckoned, "We got nipped in that tight that the ship began to list. Ice was piling over the rails. It looked as like she would be buried. Next the plates on the starboard side gave way, and the water came in rapidly."

The crew went below and began to shovel the cargo over the side. After shifting a few tons, they discovered where the water was coming from. The ice had punched a two-foot hole in the hull. It was plugged for the time being, but the Captain felt sure that as soon as the ice plug was pulled, Tunstall had no place to go but down. He ordered the lifeboats lowered.

It must have been very embarrassing, getting yourself sunk by ice, in the middle of May, in the warmest waters north of Florida. But it did have its advantages. No one was in danger of being drown'd in a storm toss'd sea. Everyone had time to gather up their gear. After the boats were launched, nobody had to row. They just hitched up a couple of ropes and hauled them a safe distance away. Shortly after this was done the ice shifted and water began to pour into Tunstall's hold. Late that afternoon the crew stood by their lifeboats and watched Tunstall dip her nose under the ice and slide to the bottom.

Here, in the gathering dusk, the only fatality of the Tunstall incident occurred. The future was uncertain. It was foggy, and no one knew how far offshore they were. Or what direction the ice was drifting. Or how long it would be until they might find themselves safely ashore. Included in Tunstall's deck cargo were two live pigs. It seemed silly to risk a possible death by malnutrition with two lovely pigs among the ship's complement. They were slaughtered and set to chill by the boats. Just in case. This done, the crew settled down to a night on the ice.

Monday morning dawned clear. The ice field had drifted close to shore, and the Captain realized they might simply walk to safety. Leaving the boats they struck off on foot. By Monday evening they scrambled ashore by the lighthouse at the mouth of St. Peter's Bay.

Three of the crew, however, had to take a more roundabout way to safety. As seaman James Crock remembered: "We were just in hailing distance of the shore when the ice separated, and the Second Mate, the Cook and myself got separated from the Captain and the rest of the crew." Cut off from shore, the three had no choice but to return to the lifeboats. Here they built a fire and the Cook made himself useful by cooking the two pigs. They laid their pork store in one of the boats and settled in for their second night on the ice.

On Tuesday morning the three found enough open water to launch their boat, and they spent the day rowing through the thick fog and ice cakes. They obviously had no idea where they were going, because later that afternoon a Cable Head farmer named MacKenzie spotted them heading roughly in the direction of the Atlantic Ocean. MacKenzie rallied his sons and neighbours, launched his dory, and brought the last of the Tunstall crew safely ashore.

At this point, the wreck of the Tunstall took a mysterious turn. After bringing Mr. Crock and his mates to safety, MacKenzie and his neighbours headed back out, no doubt looking to reward their good deed with a bit of salvage from the wreck. They found nothing. There were later attempts to locate the wreck off the mouth of the harbour, where the rest of the crew came ashore. Again, nothing was found. Then the salvagers realized they had no way of knowing how far the drifting ice had carried the crew after their ship went down. The Captain had been too busy before she went down to take a navigational fix, and she'd been too far offshore to see any landmarks. SS Tunstall was lost in the purest sense of the word.

By the 1930s, fishermen off Covehead were noticing that a certain spot on their lobster grounds was notorious for snagging gear. They also found that the lobsters they caught there had a black tinge to their shells, and their drags often brought up lumps of coal. They realized they were fishing over a wreck and dubbed it "the Coal Boat." Those who remembered the Tunstall realized that this was where she went down.

Source of information regarding the Tunstall:

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