A Diver inspects the Underwater Archaeological Association of British Columbia plaque the wreck of the S.S. Whitesmith near Sicamous in February 2015. (Copper Island Diving Photo)

A Diver inspects the Underwater Archaeological Association of British Columbia plaque the wreck of the S.S. Whitesmith near Sicamous in February 2015. (Copper Island Diving Photo)

Explore the sunken treasures of the Shuswap

Divers explore historic boats and a Ford Model T that broke through lake ice while on a delivery

Yawning up from the murky depths of Shuswap Lake near Sicamous are the decaying timbers of the SS Whitesmith.

The last known steam-powered vessel to transport people and cargo up and down the lake, the Whitesmith met its end in 1933 after a storm blew it against the pilings of the old CPR hotel once located on the west shore of the Sicamous Channel. A broken piling punctured the ice-breaker ferry’s hull and it slipped beneath the lake’s surface.

Decades after it went down, the Whitesmith has become a popular attraction for scuba divers.

“We dive it on a regular basis,” said Paul Downie of Copper Island Diving.

The Whitesmith is far from the only ruined vessel submerged beneath Shuswap Lake. Downie said near the Cinnemousun Narrows, a tug boat called the Alvira can be found by divers about 100 feet below the surface. The Alvira caught fire and sunk, leaving only its hull and engine behind.

Read More: New signs to mark Japanese internment camps in Shuswap

Read More: Memories of the frozen Shuswap Lake

Also in the vicinity of the narrows, Downie said a macabre sight awaits divers who are able to locate an old horse-drawn sleigh with the remains of its team of horses still attached. He said the sleigh and team broke through the ice and sank.

Another piece of awe-inspiring debris on the lake bed is a Ford Model T which was once used by John Joseph Smith to deliver mail and supplies to remote communities and logging camps when the lake froze in the winter. Smith built and operated the Whitesmith along with his business partner F.C. Whitehead before it sank. According to a plaque placed on the submerged car, it broke through the ice on March 22, 1930 and sank, taking two sleigh loads of supplies with it. Smith and Whitehead jumped to safety as the car sank.

Although he survived his brush with the icy waters of Shuswap Lake when the car broke through, newspaper clipping preserved by the Salmon Arm Museum and Archives state Smith drowned in the lake on a May 21, 1940 supply run near the Cinnemousun Narrows.

The plaques that adorn both the Whitesmith and the Model T were put in place by the Underwater Archaeological Association of British Columbia. They implore those visiting the submerged landmarks not to touch them so that they may be preserved.

“The slang with the local divers is shoot only pictures, leave only bubbles,” Downie said.

Shuswap Lake was once used as a major transportation route both when it was frozen and unfrozen. Wooden barges which once ferried cargo between Blind Bay and Scotch Creek can be found just outside the swimming area at the Scotch Creek Wharf Road Community Park in just over 30 feet of water.

“There’s definitely a lot of history that a lot of people don’t realize is in their backyard,” Downie said.

Read More: Family uprooted by suspicious fire grateful for support

Read More: Crown drops one Vernon assault charge against Curtis Sagmoen

Downie said winter and early spring are the best times of year for diving where visibility is concerned. He said visibility this time of year is approximately 60 feet, but in the summer that often shrinks to obscure everything beyond arm’s reach.

“A lot of the local divers with experience would have been diving all winter long. As long as they can get in the water and don’t have the ice as a hindrance, they would definitely get in the water.”

Downie estimates there are 200 or more divers in the area, 50 of which are regulars. Copper Island Diving is a full training facility capable of teaching those hoping to catch their own glimpse of the Shuswap’s sunken historic treasures.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


The Ford Model T which broke through the ice and sank to the bottom of Shuswap Lake on March 22 1930. (Copper Island Diving Photo)

The Ford Model T which broke through the ice and sank to the bottom of Shuswap Lake on March 22 1930. (Copper Island Diving Photo)

Explore the sunken treasures of the Shuswap

Explore the sunken treasures of the Shuswap

Explore the sunken treasures of the Shuswap

Just Posted

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Black Crow Cannabis is just one of Vernon's many pot shops now open in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Kelowna has highest cannabis fees in Okanagan

Vernon’s 14 stores pay second highest business licence fees

Serving alcohol has been altered in the Central Okanagan Public Schools policy regarding rental of school facilities for after-school hours events. (Contributed)
Alcohol option opened up at Central Okanagan school facilities rented for events

Central Okanagan Board of Education retains final approval for after-hours event approvals

Voting day for the upcoming Central Okanagan Board of Education by-election is June 26. (Contributed)
Central Okanagan school board election set for June 26

Kelowna voters will go the polls to fill vacant Kelowna trustee seat

Two bikes that were stolen after a West Kelowna parking garage was looted on April 3. Photo: Crime Stoppers Central Okanagan
Parking garage looted in West Kelowna

A car was broken into and six storage lockers were ransacked

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

Old English design elements can be seen in the sign of the Summerland Farm and Garden Centre in 1993. The guidelines are no longer in place, but some downtown businesses still show aspects of the days when Summerland had a theme in place. This photo was taken by Summerland photographer Dan Dorotich. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Summerland’s Old English theme has been abandoned

From the 1980s until the early 2000s, Summerland had design guidelines in its downtown

Penticton bylaw officers tore down a “pretty significantly sized” homeless camp underneath the bridge near Riverside Drive Friday, April 16 morning. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton bylaw tears down ‘significantly sized’ homeless camp under bridge

Many residents had made complaints about the camp before it was torn down

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

Ford F-350s have been targeted in the North Okanagan by auto thieves since February 2021, Vernon North Okanagan RCMP data shows. (Gene J. Puskar - The Canadian Press/AP file)
Auto thieves target older Ford F-350s in Vernon: RCMP

Vernon Mounties remind all motorists no vehicle is immune to auto crime

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Most Read