When diving in Navy Bay it’s impossible to miss the military presence in Kingston, Ontario. On the west side of the dive site is Royal Military College, where officers of the future are trained. To the east is Fort Henry, originally built during the War of 1812 to defend against American forces. In the 1830s it was replaced by a much larger fort, which still stands as a living history lesson. Marching “soldiers” in period uniforms and cannon fire from the ramparts are part of Fort Henry’s spectacular Sunset Ceremony.Underwater one finds more military history. Diving to the bottom of Navy Bay, among my finds was a clay pipe. Dan Haslip, owner of Explorer Diving in Kingston and a retired Canadian soldier, explains the history of the pipe, which is just one of several that have been found there.
Almost 200 years ago there was an old navy dock yards and they (workers) used to get a tobacco ration every week. They had clay pipes like that. I am told the pipes had a long stem. As they smoked, it tarred up and got dirty, so they kept biting it down,” said Dan, in explaining. why most of the ones found had short stems.“You can find cannon balls, musket balls and all kinds of cups and plates, dishes, pottery, old cattle bones and buttons that I think are from uniforms or clothing of the day,” Dan added.As well as the clay pipe, I also found plates, a broken teacup,a musket ball and pieces of an old crock, while diving with Dan’s son, Chris.There are also a couple of wooden ships that are wrecked in Navy Bay, one of them a French bateau that predates the British. Only the ribbing is left. The bay is about 25 feet deep.In Dead Man’s Bay, just to the east, is the wreck of the Princess Charlotte, which is one of the ships launched at Navy Bay for the War of 1812, says Dan. It carried 32 guns.Another nearby dive site Dan and his friends like is Portsmouth Harbour on Lake Ontario in Kingston. There are old anchors and ship wrecks there.Dan’s army career took him to many locations around the world, some of them near good dive sites where he could participate in the sport in his down time.A Sergeant Major in the army, Dan’s tours of duty included: three years in Afghanistan, a return to Kabul for two years in human intelligence; a couple of combat tours in Kandahar; peacekeeping in Cyprus; a couple of tours in Czechoslovakia during the Cold War; as well as Germany, the Balkans, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia. His diving was mainly while stationed in Belgium, as well as in Turkey and Egypt. Originally from Point Edward, which is beside Sarnia, Dan retired to Kingston. “I had four tours here with the military. A lot of old buddies retired here as well and there’s good diving,” he explained.