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Filmmakers in Bruce Peninsula accidentally discover 128-year-old shipwreck

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Yvonne Drebert and Zach Melnick were looking for invasive mussels when they found something nobody has laid eyes on for 128 years.

“Sort of out of the mists of time this ship appears,” said Zach Melnick, who was operating the remote controlled underwater camera that found the shipwreck.

This summer, the Bruce Peninsula filmmakers accidentally discovered what’s believed to be the wreck of the “Africa,” a steamship that sank in October of 1895 while carrying coal from the United States to Owen Sound across Lake Huron.

Drebert and Melnick could hardly believe their eyes as the 128-year-old ship revealed itself to them.

“Holy cow, there’s the smokestack. It looks like that’s a boiler. So, this is a steamship, so that’s super cool,” said Melnick.

Eleven people perished on the Africa when it sank. Among them, Captain Hans Larsen who, ironically enough, is the namesake of the village Drebert and Melnick call home.

“We live on the Bruce Peninsula in a place called Larsen’s Cove. This place was named after the captain of the Africa, Hans Larsen. There’s streets named for folks involved in this incident where we live. It’s kind of cool for the whole community to now know this is what actually happened to the Africa,” said Drebert.

Yvonne Drebert and Zach Melnick of Inspired Planet Productions in June 2023, the discoverers of the Africa shipwreck. (Courtesy of Inspired Planet Productions)

The accidental shipwreck discovery, which was made off the west coast of the Bruce Peninsula near Tobermory, has meant a lot of free publicity for the couple’s documentary ‘All Too Clear’ about invasive mussels in the Great Lakes.

They’ve been travelling around the Great Lakes shooting footage for the past two and half years.

“This shipwreck discovery really allows us to reach a much greater audience than we would have been able to before,” said Melnick.

You can learn and see more about their discovery and the invasive mussels’ documentary by visiting their website.

The “Africa” shipwreck covered in invasive quagga mussels. (Courtesy of Inspired Planet Productions)

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