Established 1984

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Exceptional Underwater Services in Ontario, Manitoba & Quebec

Soderholm Maritime Services Inc has a rich and storied history providing exceptional underwater services throughout Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec, and beyond. On this page, you’ll read some of the interesting projects we’ve worked on throughout the years and newspaper articles about our adventures.

March, 1995

Hours after the collapse of the ore bridge at a steel company, Soderholm Maritime Services conducted the initial underwater inspection of the approximately 150 tons of wreckage that had fallen into the water. Working with the steel company and McKiel Marine, a plan was made and executed three days following the accident. Using three cranes, one on shore and two on barges, the two main pieces of wreckage (90 tons and 60 tons) were lifted simultaneously. Following that, the diver proceeded to sling and basket all remaining pieces of wreckage. Five days after the accident, the dock was clear and ready for the next ship's arrival.

Spring of 1998 - Toronto Star "Letters to the Editor": Workmen Rescue Big Turtle Entangled in Fishing Line

"For two weeks, we helplessly watched as a huge snapping turtle struggled to free itself from some fishing line in Grenadier Pond in High Park. Rescue finally came, but not from where we expected.


When we first saw the beast actively paddling and bobbing at the surface but not getting anywhere, we got help from a Park Watch volunteer. He left elaborate telephone messages for both the park administration and the humane society. Since it was a weekend, no help came.

On the first weekday, park staff showed up to verify the turtle's plight. They were sympathetic but not trained to deal with wild animals. It was a job for the humane society.

In the park's boat, the society's officer approached the turtle, which immediately dove to the safety of the muddy bottom. The officer stirred up the surroundings trying to release whatever was holding the turtle, but the turtle didn't come up again until all the commotion was over.

For the next two weeks, the turtle played hide-and-seek as we kept finding it struggling on warm sunny days, although the park staff and humane society thought it had gotten away.

Finally, one day we found a huge dredging barge, with crane, floating almost over the spot where the turtle was prisoner. Surely this would put an end to the snapper's tortured existence. As a last-ditch effort, we asked the workmen to keep an eye out for the turtle. Half-heartedly, we returned a couple of days later to ask the workmen if they had seen the turtle. Not only had they seen it, they had released it."

March, 1996

During a "routine" hull survey of the "Algobay,” the diver found the lower pintle had dropped. The diver cut off the lower cover plate and the pintle nut cover plates. A special bracket was fabricated to jack the pintle up and a crane was used to tighten the nut. The diver then welded the nut in place and the ship was allowed to proceed without drydocking.

1991

Soderholm Maritime Services responds to the sinking of the sand dredge Niagara II. After the initial inspection revealed a single hole large enough to fit a diver in the hull, the diver closed watertight doors and hatch covers and pumps were started. After being on site for 36 hours, the "Niagara II" was afloat, stable and on its way to drydock.


Following eight more years of service, the "Niagara II" was decommissioned, stripped, cleaned and sunk in the spring of 1999 to create a sport diving site near Tobermory, Ontario.

Fixing Ships from Underwater

Paul Wilson

The Hamilton Spectator

LEIF SODERHOLM -- Soderholm Maritime Services is the only diving firm on the harbour. Divers do quick repairs to damaged ships but the firm can also do dredging with the big crane on its scow.

What's on the bottom of Hamilton Harbour? Well, divers call it yogurt. Or loon poop, except they use another four-letter word.
It's really silt down there. Silt's everywhere, but it's thicker in Hamilton Harbour. If you stood in it in some places, it might be over your head.

In the lake, sediment gets moved along. In our harbour,
it just sits there.

Leif (rhymes with safe) Soderholm, 48, runs Hamilton's only diving company. He has been down in our harbour many times. And he wants you to know that it's getting better out there.

About 15 years ago, one of his divers got water in his helmet and ingested some of it. He got so sick he had to go to hospital. Now his men take accidental gulps without incident.

The other change is that Hamilton Harbour is clearer. That's due to the zebra mussel. It slipped into Lake Ontario a dozen years ago and began devouring the microscopic plants and animals. This can affect a lake's entire ecological balance, but murky waters do become magically clear.

"Now we routinely have good visibility in the harbour," Soderholm says. He says companies like Lloyd's Register, which monitors ship safety and reliability, now want underwater inspections done at sites such as Hamilton Harbour because the water is so clear.

We are talking to Soderholm at his office. The phone rings every now and then. It's strapped to his belt. Gulls overhead, we're sitting in the sunshine on the warm planks of the Soderholm Maritime Services' scow.

We have a front-row view of the factory waterfront from a temporary berth at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters, in the shadow of the Skyway.

Since the cell phone, Soderholm has had no desk or chair. He'd rather be outside. In his briefcase, there's a laptop and fax. He is fully plugged in.

We're sharing this scow -- which weighs 55 tons -- with Soderholm's beloved Bucyrus Erie, a 40-year-old crane with shovel that he uses for small dredging jobs and dock construction.

The engine of this armada is a battered tug built in 1957. It has no modern comforts whatsoever, but is strong and manoeuvrable.

Soderholm and companion, a cocker spaniel named Jutta, are about to push down the lake for the next job. It's in Scarborough, at Bluffer's Park Marina. They're doing an installation for a colony of concrete-bottomed houseboats designed for year-round living.

Soderholm lives on firm ground, in Westdale. He was born in Loviisa, Finland, where the family had a farm. They came to Canada when Soderholm was a boy. On a church outing here, he got to use some scuba gear.

"It was for about three minutes in four feet of water. But you didn't have to come up. You could stay under. That was magical." So he became a diver.

He remembers an early job in Hamilton Harbour where he wore the old Mark V suit -- brass helmet, breast plate, weight belt and heavy boots. In Port Colborne, he had to swim several hundred feet into an intake off the lake. You get danger pay for that kind of work, but he was hard to scare.

In 1975, his best friend took on a job in the Welland Canal. He was doing a pipe inspection, lost his life line, got trapped under the ice and searched for the entry hole until his air ran out.

Basic safety rules were broken there. Soderholm knows why they must be followed. He has five full-time divers, who double as concrete workers, boat operators, underwater welders. Hourly rates start at about $18, rise to over $30.

On behalf of Hamilton police, Soderholm's crew removes bodies from the harbour. They also dive for stolen cars and weapons ditched in a hurry.

But the work of choice, the work that pays best and is most appreciated, is on the ships. A ship gets a hole in its shell. It is not hard for this to happen. Soderholm asks us to picture an egg getting smashed with a hammer -- that's the force with which a vessel can hit a pier or any solid object the wrong way.

The ship might not be sinking, but regulations say it can't move until any damage is investigated. So the owner of that vessel wants fast action.

Soderholm can usually have a crew at the scene within a couple of hours, day or night, and do a patch or just assess the damage. He services lakers and salties anywhere within a four-hour drive of Hamilton.

Soderholm does not dive anymore himself. He had several heart operations and his valves were leaking badly. There is no fat on him now -- 162 pounds on a six-foot-two frame -- but he used to be a real scarecrow.

"I was all drawn, dark eyes. I would have died in a couple of years."

But then doctors did something new. They repaired his heart with grafts of Dacron, a material used for sails and even the odd wetsuit. Soderholm was a new man, with a good grasp on what's important. "I haven't turned into a wild and crazy man, but now I live every day as if it's my last."

Each winter, he goes somewhere far away -- Thailand, India, Hong Kong.

Come spring, it's back to paradise, back to Hamilton Harbour.

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