Saturday, September 27, 2008

St. Lawrence

When I first clapped eyes on the St. Lawrence, that sunny morning years ago, I was struck by its blueness, the sheer size and might of it. My life since then has been twined around it: canoeing, tent-camping, swimming, diving. Sometimes, especially in winter, when it's un-navigable, I listen to the growl and scream of shifting ice, the twitter of the ice plates along the shoreline and the chime of the swaying willow branches laden with glittering pendants of ice.

There's so much lying beneath the surface: the remains of the Lost Villages and hundreds of wrecks, which make it a paradise for sport divers. Zebra mussels are an ill wind: they have made the St. Lawrence clearer, better than the thin pea-soup that it once was. In addition divers now ride jet-propelled drives, which means less air expended in fighting the current, and fewer clouds of silt kicked up.

My favourite spot was the wreck of the Lilly Parsons (take a peek at: She's a beautiful, clinker-built wooden coal ship that went down in 1877 and lies upside-down in the Brockville Narrows underneath the shipping lane, her keel arching up towards the sunlight. The current alongside is fierce, whipping the guide rope into vibrations like a plucked guitar string. Around her lies scattered coal, which will still burn even after so many years in the dark depths, though with a foul sulphur smell.

I wonder if the little moray eel still lives in the wreck, or whether generations of divers have scared it away...

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