Tag Archives: Shipwrecks

Lake George Shipwrecks and Sunken History


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A new book, Lake George Shipwrecks and Sunken History, was published this spring by The History Press. Written by Joseph W. Zarzynski and Bob Benway, the book is a collection their columns previously published in the Lake George Mirror along with additional material. Zarzynski and Benway helped establish Bateaux Below, which works to preserve shipwreck sites in Lake George.

The depths of Lake George hold an incredible world of shipwrecks and lost history. Zarzynski and archeological diver Bob Benway present the most intriguing discoveries among more than two hundred known shipwreck sites. Entombed are remnants of Lake George’s important naval heritage, such as the 1758 Land Tortoise radeau, considered America’s oldest intact warship. Other wrecks include the steam yacht Ellide, and excursion boat Scioto, and the first Minne-Ha-Ha (including some new findings). Additional stories include an explanation behind the 1926 disappearance of two hunters, John J. Eden and L. D. Greene, of Middletown, and pieces on the lake’s logging history and marine railways.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

1841 Wreck of the Steamship Erie Event


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Alvin F. Oickle, author of Disaster on the Potomac, Disaster in Lawrence, and Disaster at Dawn, will be on hand at Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society on Thursday, May 19, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. to sign copies of his new book on a historic Lake Erie disaster.

On August 9, 1841, the steamship Erie, one of the most elegant and fastest sailing vessels between Buffalo and Chicago, departed, carrying 343 passengers. Many were Swiss and German immigrants, planning to start new lives in America’s heartland- most never made it. The Erie erupted in flames during the night, and, despite the heroic efforts of the crew of the Dewitt Clinton, 254 lives were lost.

As news of this disaster spread, internationally renowned artists and writers, including Horatio Alger Jr. and possibly James Fenimore Cooper, wrote about ‘John Maynard,’ a fictitious, heroic helmsman.

Great Lakes Underwater Event Adds Speakers


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New York Sea Grant, the Oswego Maritime Foundation, and the Great Lakes Seaway Trail have added to the March 6 Great Lakes Underwater conference program at SUNY Oswego. The added presentations for the 9am to 3pm event at the SUNY Oswego Campus Center in Oswego, NY, include:

· Dr. Henry Spang and “Building the OMF Ontario – “a floating maritime classroom”
· Skip Couch and the “Lost Fleet of the 1000 Islands,”
· James Sears and four New York State Divers Association “Two-Tank Tips,” and
· Brian Prince of S.O.S. – the Save Ontario Shipwrecks program preserving Ontario Canada’s maritime heritage.

Oswego Maritime Foundation (OMF) Director of Education through Involvement Dr. Henry Spang will talk about the volunteer effort that is completing the construction of the OMF Ontario. Spang says, “The OMF Ontario will be dedicated to public service and is designed to educate the public about our Great Lakes maritime history, heritage, resources and ecology by hands-on involvement in the experience of sailing this fabulous re-creation from our sailing era.”

Spang says the 85-foot-long schooner will be the only ship of its kind of US registry on Lake Ontario when shipboard classes begin in two years. The last schooner built in Oswego, NY, launched 131 years ago.

Raymond I. “Skip” Couch’s ancestors include Connecticut shipbuilders that settled in Clayton, NY, and a Great Lakes Seaway Trail Rock Island Lighthouse keeper. A Clayton Diving Club founding member, Couch participated in an underwater survey for iron cannons believed abandoned by the British before the War of 1812 near Carleton Island in 2009. Couch, co-author of the Diver’s Guide to the Upper St. Lawrence River, says, “At Great Lakes Underwater, divers and maritime history buffs will hear fascinating details about the more than three dozen ships stranded or lost to natural disaster or human error in the Narrows of the Thousand Islands.”

James Sears of the New York State Divers Association will share four destinations where divers can easily dive on two different shipwrecks. Two of the sites are in the St. Lawrence River with one each in Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain.

The keynote presentation of the 2010 Great Lakes Underwater is deep wreck explorer Jim Kennard’s presentation on the “Discovery of the HMS Ontario,” a British warship that sank in Lake Ontario in 1780 during the American Revolution. Kennard, who might easily be called the “Great Lakes Seaway Trail’s Jacques Cousteau,” will share a video and the exciting story of how he and diving partner Dan Scoville located this “Holy Grail” of diving. Kennard’s 200-plus discoveries have been featured in such publications as National Geographic and Sea Technology.

Brian Prince, president of S.O.S. – Save Ontario Shipwrecks, will highlight Canadian efforts to preserve Ontario’s shipwrecks and maritime heritage. The nonprofit organization conduct underwater archaeology and side scan surveys, collects oral histories, maintains an historical archives, offers diver training, and installs maritime-theme interpretive signage.

New York Sea Grant Coastal Recreation and Tourism Specialist and conference co-organizer Dave White, says, “Great Lakes Underwater provides divers and non-divers who enjoy maritime heritage with a fabulous day of discoveries with speakers who offer an inside look at our history and fascinating details of shipwrecks, the underwater landscape, and the technology now used to explore the underwater landscape.”

Great Lakes Underwater 2010 will be held in the high-tech SUNY Oswego Campus Center Auditorium. Registration for Great Lakes Underwater is $25 ($20 for students) payable to Cornell University and includes the program, buffet lunch, and refreshments. For more information, contact New York Sea Grant, SUNY Oswego, Oswego, NY 13126, 315-312-3042, www.oswegomaritime.org/glu.html.

Photo: Oswego Maritime Foundation’s Ontario undertest sail.

Oldest Shipwreck Highlight of Great Lakes Underwater Event


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The discovery of the Great Lakes’ oldest confirmed shipwreck – a British warship used in the American Revolution – is the keynote presentation for the March 6, 2010 Great Lakes Underwater conference at SUNY Oswego, Oswego, NY. Underwater explorer Jim Kennard, who might be called the “Great Lakes Jacques Cousteau,” will share the story of how he and diving partner Dan Scoville located the HMS Ontario.

Kennard and Scoville found the sloop-of-war in 500 feet of water May 2008. She was on her way from Fort Niagara in Youngstown, NY, to Oswego and Fort Haldimand on Carleton Island in the St. Lawrence during the Revolutionary War when she sunk in a gale on October 31, 1780. The ship is considered property of the British Admiralty and is to be left undisturbed as a war grave site.

Those attending the Great Lakes Underwater event hosted by New York Sea Grant and the Oswego Maritime Foundation will see a video of the fascinating 229-year-old, 80-foot-long, 22-gun ship and hear the details of her discovery using deep-water sonar scanning. The video images will reveal how well the deep, cool Great Lakes’ water of Lake Ontario preserved her two crow’s nests, carved bow, quarter galleries, anchors and upright masts.

Conference co-organizer David G. White, a coastal recreation and tourism specialist with New York Sea Grant, Oswego, says, “With Jim Kennard as keynote speaker, the 2010 Great Lakes Underwater promises to be a fascinating day of the tales of shipwreck discovery. We are pleased to add our name alongside National Geographic, Sea Technology and others who have recognized the depth and scope of his exploration into the waters of New York.”

In just the past six years, Kennard has discovered 12 historic and rare shipwrecks in Lake Ontario. In his 40-year career, he counts more than 200 discoveries total exploring in Lake Champlain, the Finger Lakes, and the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

Great Lakes Underwater 2010 will be held in the high-tech SUNY Oswego Campus Center Auditorium. Registration for Great Lakes Underwater is $25 ($20 for students) payable to Cornell University and includes the program, buffet lunch, and refreshments.

For more information, contact New York Sea Grant, SUNY Oswego, Oswego, NY 13126, 315-312-3042, www.oswegomaritime.org/glu.html.

Photo: One of two crow’s nests on the HMS Ontario; courtesy Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville.

Ships, Explorers, And The World Trade Center


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In 1916 the burnt timbers of what some believe is a 17th-century ship’s keel (the remains of Adriaen Block’s Tiger, forerunner of the Onrust) were discovered at the site of the future World Trade Center. You can read about that at one of my favorite blogs, The Old Salt Blog. Later, an ancient anchor and a Dutch cannon were recovered there in 1967. These maritime relics will be exhibited together in February 2-28, 2010, along with a model of a new ship that commemorates the World Trade Center and honors America’s maritime heritage.

The exhibit will be kicked off with an Exhibition Preview, Luncheon and Fundraiser on February 3, 2010. The preview event will feature preservationists Peter Stanford and Kent Barwick, an exhibition preview, the dedication of World Trade Center Steel, cocktails and a luncheon, followed by a guided tour of the exhibition.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

* the charred remains of a ship’s bow excavated in 1916, long thought to be the ship’s keel of Dutch explorer Adrian Block’s Ship TIJGER, which burned off Manhattan in 1613, and a bronze cannon marked “VOC,” property of the Dutch East India Company (Courtesy Museum of the City of New York);

* an ancient, 11-foot iron anchor hoisted from the construction site of the World Trade Center in 1967, where it had been buried for more than 300 years (Courtesy National Maritime Historical Society);

* a model and film of the USS NEW YORK, the Navy’s newly commissioned (7 November 2009) Landing Platform, Dock Warship, made with 7.5 tons of World Trade Center Steel forged into its bow (Courtesy USS NEW YORK Commissioning Committee);

* documentary film footage from 1916 of the discovery of the Ship TIJGER Keel and a section of Manhattan Company Water Pipe (1804) found during excavation for the IRT subway tunnel at the future World Trade Center site (Courtesy Brooklyn College Archives); and

* at the entrance to The India House: a steel artifact recovered from the World Trade Center. This will be a permanent reminder of the World Trade Center, the innocent victims, and the bravery of those who responded on September 11, 2001.

The exhibit, curated by Margaret Stocker, is being hosted by India House (One Hanover Square, NYC) and is being presented by the India House Foundation.

Exhibit Hours: Weekdays 11 – 3:30 and group tours by appointment
Suggested Donation: $10
For Group tours contact info@indiahousefoundation.org or telephone Maria Dering at 212-873-6715

Exhibition Preview, Luncheon and Fundraiser February 3, 2010
To Reserve Tickets: info@indiahousefoundation.org
Skippers: $250 Explorers: $350 Masters of the Universe: $500
or email stockermargaret@mac.com

VPR Looks At Historic Lake Champlain Sinkings


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All last week Vermont Public Radio (VPR) has been running a series of reported entitled “History Under the Waves” looking at five historic wrecks that lie at the bottom of Lake Champlain. Over 300 shipwrecks lie at the bottom of Champlain, and VPR looked at what sent five of them to their fates, including a Revolutionary War gunboat, a lake schooner, two steamboats, and a sailing canal boat. The reports also feature a photo gallery.

Much of what is known about the extend of underwater remains of Champlain shipwrecks comes from surveys conducted by the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM). The LCMM has been instrumental in conducting archeological surveys and persuading New York and Vermont to establish the Lake Champlain Historic Preserve System in order to provide access for divers to some of the Lake’s historic shipwrecks. You can find a list of manning of the Champlain Shipwrecks at the LCMM Shipwrecks site.

Experience War of 1812 Sinking of Hamilton & Scourge


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Thursday, July 16, 2009, at 6 pm, War of 1812 sailor Ned Myers will be telling his lively tale of the sinking of the Hamilton & the Scourge at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center in Sackets Harbor, N.Y. To be completely accurate, an authentically costumed James H. Fischer will relate the story of the famous shipwrecks’ survivor in this presentation for the 2009 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Experience Series. Fischer’s presentation will also include a series of Jacques Cousteau slides of lake bottom vessels.


Seaman Myers lived to tell his story to noted American author James Fenimore Cooper. Fischer, a marine consultant who has studied the underwater history of Lake Ontario for 22 years, draws on Myers’ narrative as told to Cooper for A Life Before the Mast. Fischer shares fascinating details of the moments before a squall surprised captain and crew.

The wrecks of the two merchant ships – Hamilton, built as Diana in Oswego, NY, and the Scourge, originally Lord Nelson, were discovered in 1973 and are considered to have national historic significance to both the U.S. and Canada.

The $5 program fee benefits educational programming at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center, Ray and West Main Streets, Sackets Harbor, NY. For more information, visit www.seawaytrail.com or call 315-646-1000.

Photo: James H. Fischer in 19th century sailor’s dress is seen below the bust of U.S. merchant ship Diana purchased in Oswego and converted in Sacketts Harbour in 1812 as the US naval warship Hamilton.

Underwater Explorer Presents Lake Ontario Shipwrecks


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Noted shipwreck explorer Jim Kennard will present an all-day program on the “Shipwrecks of Lake Ontario” on Saturday, June 13 as part of the 2009 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Experience Series. Kennard’s discoveries have received worldwide attention and have been featured in National Geographic Magazine. The program at the “Red Barn” at the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site on Hill Street in Sackets Harbor benefits the nonprofit Great Lakes Seaway Trail Foundation that promotes tourism-based learning experiences along the 518-mile-long freshwater shoreline of New York and Pennsylvania. The program fee for the day-long shipwrecks program on June 13th is $15 or $5/program payable at the door.

The waters of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail hold many of the more than 200 wrecks Kennard has discovered in more than 35 years of diving. Each of his four presentations on May 21st will focus on a different wreck that Kennard and exploration partner Dan Scoville have discovered over the past six years in Lake Ontario. The program begins at 10 am and will include presentations on:

“Discovery of the Steamer Homer Warren,”

“The Last Voyage of the Schooner Etta Belle,”

“Discovery of an Early 19th Century Lake Ontario Schooner,” and

“The Deep Water Shipwrecks of Lake Ontario.”

During each program Kennard will present a brief update & short video on HMS Ontario, a British sloop-of-war that sank in Lake Ontario on October 31, 1780, during the Revolutionary War. Kennard also be signing copies of the recently-published book “Legend of the Lake,” the story of the HMS Ontario.

Since 1970, Kennard has discovered shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, Lake Champlain, NY Finger Lakes, and Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Using his background as an electrical engineer, Kennard built the side scan sonar system that located the shipwrecks.

For more information on the Great Lake Seaway Trail and the Dive the Seaway Trail Project, visit www.seawaytrail.com or call 315-646-1000.