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Monday, June 9, 2014

Everyone arrived at the cabin in Ferrisburgh, Vermont over the weekend and it fits our team quite comfortably. The views of the mountains and forests are fantastic but there’s hardly been time to enjoy it since we’re getting ready for the field school right away. Our team consists of Texas A&M grad students Mara Deckinga, myself (Nathan Gallagher), Stephanie Koenig, Grace Tsai, Nautical Archaeology program graduate Dr. Rebecca Ingram, and undergraduate student Var Marmarinou. Dan Bishop and George Schwartz are also volunteering for the first half of the project, and later we’ll be joined by Carrie Sowden. Throughout the project we have invaluable support from the staff of the Lake Champlain Maritime museum, including Erick Tichonuk, Sarah Tichonuk, Art Cohn, Chris Sabick, Paul Willard, Rob Wilczynski, Pierre Larocque, Ron Adams, and Alex Lehning. We’re extremely grateful for their help both in and out of the water! Last but not least, Dr. Kevin Crisman and PhD candidate Carolyn Kennedy are our co-principle investigators.

Both co-PIs have already had a sneak peak at the site and can testify to the huge amount of work we’re facing in order to survey these four large steamboat hulls resting in Lake Champlain’s Shelburne bay. The largest hull is 206 feet long! The volume of remains we’re dealing with will make for a tremendous deal of recording, mapping, and eventually interpretation. Luckily the lake has warmed up to around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which should make for some fairly comfortable diving. The wrecks are also quite shallow, resting at only 3 to 10 feet deep. Visibility will be up to 12 feet. Challenges our divers will face include large iron rods that jut up from the ship remains, sharp zebra mussels that have invaded the lake in recent years, boat traffic in the marina, and reduced visibility when the lake turns. Of course, safety is our first priority and we’ll have a great team all looking out for each other.

Dan checking out the site.

Dan checking out the site.

So far we’ve been busy gathering and prepping materials, and settling in to the cabin, but our divers also had their first check-out dive in Lake Champlain today at Basin Harbor. All performed well and will have another day of check out dives tomorrow to orient themselves before the survey begins. Chris and Carolyn gave us some excellent introductory talks to the history of Lake Champlain and its steamboats, and Dr. Crisman refreshed us on ship construction so that we’re ready to hit the ground running. Everyone is anxious to get started and we’re feeling optimistic about the work we’re going to do!


For now we want to extend a very special thanks to Marge Aske, owner of Aske Marina, Jim Moore and Dave Mithcell, co-managers of Aske Marina, Mary Griswold, owner of Shelburne Shipyard, and Mark Brooks, a property owner at the site. Without their support this project would not be possible!

Nathan Gallagher, M.A. Student, Nautical Archaeology Program, Texas A&M University