Paula Matheson displays a pipe, manufactured in Montreal in the 1800s, she found on the waterfront in Plummer Additional, east of Sault Ste. Marie, ON Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012.
Credits: DAN KERR/QMI AGENCY
Paula Matheson, who lives on the northern shores of Lake Huron, spent the summer "beachcombing" on the sandy shores and says she's accumulated a haul of collectibles for her garden and home.
She's collected ancient, long-forgotten rail spikes and pioneer hand-made nails, but she keeps her prize find in a jewelry box in her home - a kiln-fired clay pipe clearly inscribed with ‘Montreal' on one side and ‘Henderson' on the other. Relief images of grapes and wheat sheaves can also be clearly seen on the artifact, which, according to research, dates back more than 100 years.
The William Henderson Pipe Manufacturer, once located in Montreal, made pipes from 1846 to 1890. In its prime, the company had 300 employees.
"It's so fragile," Matheson said. "I don't think it could have washed in. I think it was buried in the sand and as the sand washed out and formed a sand bar further out it was exposed."
She found the pipe in one foot of clear water about 10 feet from her dock - an area once hidden in dark waves, but since exposed as the waterline continues to retreat.
Experts expect both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron could hit historic low water levels within six months if dry and warm weather conditions continue.
Other water levels on the Great Lakes are also lower than average, but not expected to reach the same historic lows through the early part of 2013.
In her 34 years on the shoreline, Matheson says she's seen both the highs and lows. In 1984, she says the waterline reached her garage. In other years, especially recently, there's only dry land in places her kids used to dive and swim.
Beachcoming during the low levels has become a favourite past-time, even if one neighbour, she says, thinks she must get chilly splashing through the shallow water along the beach.
"But I have my -60 C ice fishing boots," she laughs.
And she's got her shovel, and her artifacts and she's more than happy to see what Mother Nature might unearth next for her broadening collection.