Monday, 2 April 2012

500 (or so) got wrecked on the week-end in Welland, Ontario

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18th annual Shipwreck Festival sets a record for number of paid attendees

Over 500 wreck aficionados crowded into a high school theatre in Welland to hear North America's top shipwreck experts talk about their latest underwear finds.  Shipwreck 2012, Ontario's largest underwater event, is  an annual symposium staged by the Niagara Dive Association (NDA).  This year's wreckstock set an attendance record.
" We reached that magical number of 500 paid attendance" said volunteer organizer Ian Marshall on Saturday at the Welland Centennial High School, just as the Shipwreck 2012 conference was wrapping up, "We do know that we sold over 500 passes, but, there were a number of  divers who bought tickets but didn't them up so the actual attendance will be a little lower than tickets sold. But, of course, we have to add in all the unpaid exhibitors and speakers numbers too, to find out how many made it here this year. Going to be next week before we get the final tally."
Jill Heinerth and Robert McClellan
Key note speaker was Canadian technical diving expert and underwater cinematographer Jill Heinerth. A pioneering underwater explorer and filmmaker, she has dived deeper into caves than any woman in history. 
Heinerth, along with her diving husband Robert McCellan live most of the year near a freshwater cave in Florida. The pair returned to Ontario in March to visit her family and to give two presentations for the NDA.  One was about the challenges of making movies in dangerous environments - from the bottom of the Great Lakes to Siberia.  Her second talk?  A mystery story surrounding the disappearance of a man in a Florida cave.
She and her husband Robert McClellan wrote a feature article  about the strange case  of Ben McDaniel,  a cave diver who was seen entering Vortex Springs in northern Florida two years ago but has not been seen since!   Was it murder, or misadventure? That article is the basis of a movie the pair is working on, and they previewed a few minutes from "Ben's Vortex" at the shipwreck convention.
"His body has not been found, even though almost every inch of that cave have been searched by some of the most experienced cave divers in Florida" said Heinerth. "People are still looking for him. "
The pair are concerned that a $30,000 reward for the retrieval of McDaniel's body is causing experienced divers to take unnecessary chances looking for the man.  " There was a death last week;" said McClellan.  "A very experienced cave diver, and we believe he died looking for the body."
Since Shipwreck, the parents of McDaniel have rescinded their reward offer. The Florida News Herald reported that the "decision was made because of concern that inexperienced divers could get killed while searching for their son. It came not long after the death of 43-year-old Larry Higginbotham of Biloxi, Miss., in March in Vortex Spring."

Chris Kohl and Joan Forsberg, had a book booth at the Welland Shipwreck festival. One of the books for sale was Kohl's book about the many Great Lake area residents who perished on the Titanic.

Cris Kohl, one of Ontario's first Great Lakes shipwreck authors and a longtime contributor to Diver Magazine spoke at the Welland symposium. A graduate of Windsor University Kohl and his wife, marine historian, Joan Forsberg now live in Chicago (although they do maintain an apartment in Windsor).
This  was Kohl's first presentation at shipwreck in 16-years, so it was fitting that he gave an updated version of the first presentation ever given at the very first "Shipwrecks" show in 1995. based on Cris Kohl's books, "Dive Ontario!" and "The Great Lakes Diving Guide." His most recent book is the expanded The Great Lakes Diving Guide, the most comprehensive book ever published about Great Lakes shipwrecks. 

Below:Georgann and Mike Wachter are regular speakers at Shipwreck 

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