Attending the Niagara Divers Shipwrecks Symposium 2023
One of the joys of being an artist who draws inspiration from the underwater world is that I know a lot of divers who also share that same passion - particularly shipwreck enthusiasts! My birthday earlier this month was particularly memorable because I could share that passion at the Niagara Divers Association Annual Shipwrecks Symposium held in Welland, Ontario. It was the first time since 2019 that it was being held in person since Covid restrictions in 2020.
The symposium features a full day of key note and short presentations with a focus on shipwrecks (many of which are found in the Great Lakes), some local diving, exploration and expeditions and updating the Niagara Divers Members on funds raised for the maintenance and placement of buoys for the local wrecks in Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Lake Huron and the St. Lawrence River. This event the main fundraising event for S.O.S. - Save Ontario Shipwrecks which is dedicated to the study, preservation and promotion of an appreciation of Ontario’s marine heritage.
The presentations were informative, with topics ranging from the The Archaeology of HMS Erebus by John Ratcliffe from Parks Canada to discoveries and expeditions, such as Canadian Geographic Explorer-in-Resident, Jill Heinerth's presentation on the recent discovery of a World War 2 B-24 bomber in Gander Lake Newfoundland. She also did a second presentation on the Bell Island wrecks and what it's like to dive them. The Bell Island wrecks are a topic that I'm particularly passionate about. They're an incredible part of Canadian history and having been fortunate enough to dive them several years in a row, I love capturing them in my paintings.
I even included them in my short presentation of my artwork. With an auditorium full of divers, it was an amazing opportunity to share my artwork which were all inspired by my dive travels with Dan's Dive Shop.
I was lucky enough to be there with Dan's Dive Shop. Dan's has been a gold sponsor of the symposium every year since the beginning, and we had a booth there along with other sponsors such as Abucs Scuba and the SOS (Save Ontario Shipwrecks) Brockville chapter. But the highlight of the day for me was meeting old friends whom I haven't seen in years, as well as connecting with new divers, including some Americans who were there for the first time.
One of the things I love about the symposium is how it brings people together and creates a sense of community among divers. I was touched by the personal stories that people shared with me about my art. For example, one diver from New York shared how he felt that I was able to capture in my art, that feeling he experiences while diving about the underwater world in my paintings. Another diver even bought a print from me because the wreck in the print - the Forest City in Tobermory - was a favourite of her father's when he used to dive. She wanted to gift it to him to remind him of those times as a diver. These personal connections reminded me of the richness of the scuba diving experience and how I can use my art to connect with people from all walks of life.
Ocean Quest, our favourite dive operation and extended family in Newfoundland were also in attendance. Rick and Debbie Stanley gave a quick presentation of what it's like to dive and play on the surface with them - to visit the Bell Island mine and dive the wrecks. Newfoundland is absolutely beautiful and Rick and Debbie are incredible hosts who've mastered the art of "surprise and delight". Beyond the wrecks themselves, they're a huge reason I've been back for four years in a row.
Attending the N.D.A. Annual Shipwrecks Symposium on my birthday was a great way for this dive geek and shipwreck lover to spend the day. I was able to reconnect with old friends, make new ones, and share my passion for scuba diving and art. The presentations were insightful, and the sense of community was heartwarming. I recommend it to new divers so that you can make some connections and get visibility into diving and dive sites you may not be aware of. I’m already looking forward to next year's symposium!