Last Friday saw the culmination of three weeks of underwater archaeological work with students from the 2017 Nautical Archaeology Field School. I can’t overstate what a pleasure it was to work with Rich and Scott for the past few weeks. These two gentleman brought an impressive amount of dive capability and skill to our project and did so with an amazing attitude and a fantastic work ethic, despite the less than stellar conditions we endured both above and below water.
Rich and Scott worked with us to gain a better understanding of a shipwreck located right in Basin Harbor. While this vessel has been known to Basin Harbor Staff and LCMM divers for many years it has never been identified or studied in any great detail. The goal of the 2017 Field School was to rectify that situation. But, after three weeks of hard work and dozens of dives the wreck still remains something of a mystery.
By conducting selected excavation of portions of the wreck’s structure, we now have a much better idea of how it was built but that has failed to reveal the identity of the boat or even to clearly indicate what type of vessel the remains represent. This is a site of contradictions: we found handmade nails that suggest an early 19th century date. But we also found thread bolts that suggest a later 19th century date. We have located NO mast steps on the wreckage, which suggest maybe it was a steam boat, but we have found none of the engine bed timbers and sister keelsons that are typical of steamboat construction. Initial assumptions were that it probably represented another canal boat wreck on the lake due to its 90 foot length, but excavation across the wreck found that it is curved in section and that there was no chine log present, both facts that rule out the canal boat theory…
Frankly I’m a bit baffled.
But, as we continue to post process the data collected in 2017, I find that, in addition to being confused and maybe a little frustrated, the archaeological team is also more motivated than ever to continue to work on this site in the future and to finally answer the manifold questions that remain about this vessel and its origins.
So while I am still unclear on the identity of the wreck we worked, what I have no doubt about is my deep appreciation for the wonderful students that I had the opportunity to work with and for the amazing support for the project that came from many angles. Internally, Allyson and Jenny (the LCMM archaeological team) were fantastic colleagues to work with. Allyson arranged and coordinated the entire program from beginning to end and did so with an impressively positive attitude. Jenny insured that dive operations were carried out in a safe and efficient manner as well as bringing her extensive archaeological experience to bear on the questions raised during our field work. Bob Beach and the staff of the Basin Harbor Resort were incredibly welcoming and supported our efforts in every way possible. Penny Beach also stopped by the project nearly every day and always had words of encouragement and support for the crew. The staff at the Waterfront Dive Shop supplied us with equipment and tank fills over the course of the project, as well as letting Abigail visit the site and dive with us for a couple of days. Art Cohn shared his extensive knowledge on the legal complexities of shipwreck management with the students. And the LCMM staff made the students feel right at home on campus and assisted with our public presentation.
All in all it was another wonderful field school, and as usual it was the people and wrecks that made it such a great experience for everyone involved. Keep your eyes out for results of our continuing efforts to understand the Basin Harbor wreck and its story.
Courtesy of the South Lake Champlain Fund, at the mid-point of our field school, we went on a field trip to Whitehall to visit the ship remains of the USS Ticonderoga and the Fort Ticonderoga. At the USS Ticonderoga we gained perspective of our bits of wood in Basin Harbor and how they might relate to an entire shipwreck site. We could see the length of keelsons and sister keelsons and the potential of a robust ship-shape. We were regaled with stories of past successful LCMM field schools and chatted with locals about the summer tours of the Lois McClure. Later, when we walked into the center of the Fort Ticonderoga we looked at artifacts from the French, British, Native American, and American local histories.
I’d like to thank our participants Richard Hendren for his professional equipment-fix skills and photogrammetry savviness, Scott Baroody for his smooth diving skill and sharp observations, to our Coordinator Allyson Ropp for thinking through all the details and to Chris Sabick for his thorough insights and sense of humor.
As a recreational diver and history enthusiast, I was extremely excited to be given the opportunity to participate in this year’s LCMM field school at the Basin Harbor wreck site. Since I was a very young boy looking at pictures in National Geographic, I have always harbored a passion for history and shipwrecks. So being able to work on a wreck of a well-preserved wooden vessel in such a historically important waterway has been a real privilege.
In addition to fulfilling my personal interests, the program has provided me with an excellent introduction to the science of underwater archaeology. Coming to this setting from a pre-med background, I am used to collecting and analyzing data in a laboratory environment. Having to take scientific notes underwater was a definite first for me, in addition to being exposed to the methods used by underwater archaeologist to examine and interpret a site.
Following a few days of examining the condition of the site, setting a baseline and taking detailed measurements, today we finally began excavating. Using a suction dredge underwater did a take a little getting used to. Fortunately the dredge is far more awkward out of the water than in it, so within a very short period of time I got the hang of it. The dredging paid off as we began to find some artifacts almost immediately in addition to exposing new portions of the wreck which were extremely well preserved.
Unfortunately for the next dive team, an equipment malfunction drastically shortened their dive. The problem appears to be solved in time for the next excavation day thanks to my classmate’s skills with epoxy and fiberglass. A few minor technical obstacles and inclement weather have caused some difficulty during the first week of the project. However, the outlook for the days ahead looks extremely promising. Stay Tuned…
The Basin Harbor Club is a lovely facility and the hospitality is wonderful … but that is not why we are here diving. Under the cold water of Lake Champlain, resting quietly, are the remains of a nearly 90-foot wooden ship. Today’s dives focused on measurement of exposed sections of the wreck. This information will be used to develop a map of the site, down to the location of the iron fasteners that, after all these years underwater are still holding her together.
Diving here is not for the faint of heart, the weather topside is windy, rainy, and there is a chill in the air, the water is about 52 degrees and the visibility underwater is about four feet until we start to work and it becomes inches. We work in buddy teams and each team can work for about an hour before we start to get cold. We share what we have learned with the next team when we get out of the water. Our time on the surface passes quickly and just as we get warmed up and our notes written it is time to get back in the water. We manage two dives per team most days, so progress is slow.
If you happen to see us working you are most welcome to stop by for a quick visit (especially if you bring coffee or tea), we love to talk about what we are doing and why it is so important to preserve this unique cultural heritage.
Welcome to the 2017 Lake Champlain Maritime Museum Field School season!! These first two days have been a whirlwind of activity. We have walked all around the museum complex exploring the exhibits and learning about the long history of life on Lake Champlain and the archaeological remains. We have discussed how to build a boat and examined the creation of the museum’s two replica vessels, the gunboat Philadelphia and the sailing canal schooner Lois McClure. We practiced recording on a river bateau. Finally, we all jumped in the water! We completed the checkout dives along the outer edge of Basin Harbor, spotting all sorts of artifacts from the club’s presence on the harbor.
Soon we will begin working on our site. This year our team of archaeologists from the LCMM Maritime Research Institute, an AmeriCorps Member, and their students are in for an adventure! We are exploring an unknown wreck in Basin Harbor, the wreck that coincidently provided the spark for our fair museum. The students, Richard and Scott, come to us from very different places and with different experiences. So far they have been very excited to learn and are excited to keep learning and exploring the mysteries of the Basin Harbor Wreck and its place in Basin Harbor’s history!
On Saturday May 20th the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum held its annual spring youth rowing race at Button Bay State Park. On a clear, brisk, blustery, spring day one-hundred and sixty youth comprising 24 crews raced their hearts out. Crews from nine Chittenden and Addison County Schools as well as Connecticut, Maine and New York competed in two combined time heats totaling 1 ¾ miles. LCMM has always ended youth races with a final heat called the “mess-about” in which all the crews are mixed up randomly. It is a unique opportunity to test rower’s ability to adapt and be flexible in a competitive environment. All of the six-oar boats used in this competition were built at LCMM in the youth boat building program. The four-oar boats were built by “Floating the Apple” in New York City and are on loan to LCMM.
LCMM currently maintains a fleet of 18 rowing boats on Lake Champlain that serves over 600 students and
200 adults each season through school and community rowing programs throughout the Champlain Valley. In addition to a dozen Longboats built by students at LCMM, the Museum fleet now includes four boats from other schools and community groups in Vermont, and two “visitors” from Floating the Apple, a youth rowing program based in New York City.
Lake Champlain Maritime Museum & Research Institute (LCMM) has received $600,000 from the Hoehl Family Foundation. With this generous gift, LCMM has created the Robert & Cynthia Hoehl Memorial ‘Education for All’ Fund. “The Hoehl Family Foundation Board is thrilled to make this significant gift to honor the legacy and long-standing traditions of LCMM, while supporting the strategic and exciting new educational goals that LCMM has set for the future,” said Laura Latka of the Hoehl Foundation. “The Foundation Board prioritizes quality education and providing equal access and opportunity to all, and this gift will help support LCMM in achieving both.”
“This gift is transformative for us,” said LCMM Co-Executive Director Joyce Cameron. The Hoehls’ generosity gives us the added bandwidth to accomplish our ambitious educational goals as we continue to advance our mission to preserve and share the heritage of the Lake Champlain region by connecting its past, present and future.”
Inspired by decades of valuable archaeological research, traditional boatbuilding and on-water explorations, LCMM’s Board and staff have recently embarked on a strategic direction to expand as a vital educational resource through school partnerships and tuition-based programs. “Lake Champlain Maritime Museum has become one of the leading Expanded Learning Opportunity Providers in our region,” said School Liaison Matt Witten. “This means that schools in our area look to us to engage their students in a wide array of adventurous, project-based, and rigorous learning experiences. School reform has placed this kind of personalized learning at the top of the priority list, and we are better poised to meet students’ needs with this robust support from the Hoehl Family. Skills that the students learn here help ready them for the working world, stoke their love of learning, and can count as credit toward graduation.”
LCMM’s new educational transformation includes a growing catalog of college-accredited programs offered in partnership with Castleton University. Examples of these higher-education courses are the Underwater Archaeology Field School, professional development graduate courses for teachers, hybrid ecology courses and a GAP semester for students.
LCMM is currently enrolling elementary, middle- and high-school teachers in several professional development courses: “Archaeo-Teach,” a summertime week-long primer on bringing field archaeology to the classroom; “Presenting Abenaki Culture in the Classroom,” a full-day Summer Educators’ Workshop offered in partnership with the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association and Flynn Theater; and, in the fall, “Artifacts and Institutes” led by Harry Chaucer of Castleton University, who will focus on how teachers can use primary sources to guide students to develop transferable skills via personalized learning.
Are you ready to bang it out with some heavy metal? Are you sure you are ready and know how to? Whatever your skill with heavy metal is, come hang out with our awesome Heavy Metal instructors, Samantha and Richard, and get further into the banging and bending.
In this exciting week-long metal adventure, you will get to play with two different types of metal and make some awesome stuff. You will get to learn piercing, sinking a bowl, cutting and hammering copper, changing metal with heat and chemicals, and sand-casting bronze. At the end of the week, you will have multiple of your own hand-made objects to take with you. To get out the shop, there will swimming and games throughout the days and a field trip to Danforth Pewter, Vermont’s very own metal shop!
Not enticed yet? Did you know that the Greek gods had their own metal worker, who created all their armor and weapons? He was named Hephaestus and was one of the most important gods in the Greek Pantheon. You can learn those same skills and be just as cool. So, bring your strength and energy and creativity and come join us for a fun week of Heavy Metal Mania!
Do you like spending time on the water? Maybe you like fishing or just paddling on streams, rivers, and lakes where you live? Have you ever imagined building your own wooden boat to have and enjoy? This summer you can do that at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in our Wooden Boat Building class!
This is an active, hands-on opportunity for you to build and keep a 15′ long canoe. You will assemble it yourself, using hand and power tools like planes, drills and sanders.
All materials are provided. At the end of the week it will be painted and ready to launch. In the process you’ll develop life-long skills, and come away with your own boat–a real freedom machine.
Simple flat-bottomed boats have been used in Vermont for generations to fish, hunt, and explore. They are the prefect size for one person and move easily and quietly through reed and rushes, using a paddle or a pole. Not onlyare they useful and convenient, they are easy to build! If you are in eighth grade or older, you can quickly learn to create a simple, elegant boat of your own.
Once the boats are finished, the group will explore the lake with them. We’ll learn about lake science and about some of the physics of boats! There is nothing like the feeling of an adventure in a boat you built yourself. People will be amazed and you will be proud to say “I built this!”
We recently caught up with Richard Butz, one of the museum volunteers who will be leading this course. He says, “I’ve done this for more than twenty years, watching kids grow through the process. There is a lot of self-esteem and confidence building along with boat building.”
Calling all boaters! Calling all boaters! Calling all boaters! Are you prepared for sailing through a gale? Are you comfortable with docking between other boats? Do you know what the navigation markers mean? What do you do in a man-overboard situation? Do you know how to safely get in and out of a canoe? Are you prepared for all occasions when going out on the lake?
Whether you answered yes or no to these questions there is always more to learn. So grab your PFDs, grab your sunglasses, grab your hats, grab your sunscreen, grab your paddle, grab your oars, and join LCMM staff in an Beginner’s Boating Skills Camp!
During this camp, you will get to paddle, sail, row, and drive the many different boats in LCMM’s fleet. We have everything from canoes to pilot gigs to small motor boats. Test your skills docking all these boats and maneuvering around different obstacles and other boaters on the lake. Our excellent staff, headed by Jeff Hindes, will guide you through the answers to questions above and more! Matt Witten, our sailing led, says “this is a once-in-lifetime opportunity to learn how to handle a variety of boats with master captain Jeff Hindes and other LCMM instructors. Nowhere else in our region can you get an equivalent immersion in rowing, paddling, and sailing traditional vessels, as well as getting lots of hours in using power boats. If you want to be competent out on the water in a wide range of situations, this is the experience for you!” At the end of the camp, you can receive your VT Boater’s Card and get out on the lake all summer!