Built in 1848 in Portsmouth, Ontario, the Comet is a 337-ton twin paddle wheel steamer. She was propelled by two 51-inch piston “walking beam” style steam engines. The Comet was a passenger steamer with a beam of 24 feet and a length of 174 feet.
Although much of the top decking has collapsed, the Comet rests in 90 feet (28 metres) of water with her paddlewheels still erect.
The Comet has a depressing tale to tell. Her first mishap occurred when it sank after hitting a shoal in the St. Lawrence River. The stricken vessel was refloated, restored, and put back into operation. The second catastrophe occurred in Toronto in November 1849, when a steam pipe exploded, killing two crew members and severely injuring a third. When the boiler burst at Oswego in 1851, it killed eight crew members for the third incident and sank once again before being refloated and renamed Mayflower. It collided with the American schooner Exchange for the fourth and final time on May 15, 1861. The Comet was hit in the bow and sank, claiming the lives of two crew members.
After a five-year search, six divers discovered the wreck in October 1967. Many ship parts were removed at the time of the discovery and donated to the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes in Kingston.
Some tips for diving the Comet
- Due to the depth, bottom time should be adequately planned prior to the dive
- Good buoyancy is highly recommended; to avoid stirring up the silt on the wreck
- A good dive light
- The shipwreck, is government property, taking anything from it is strictly prohibited
- Keep in mind, the Comet is located below the thermocline
The unfortunate Comet lies at the bottom of the lake about 2.4 kilometres from Simcoe Island, marking the end of a short and troubled lifecycle.