Digging, Diving Documenting The Process of Nautical Archaeology by dov51579


									Digging, Diving & Documenting:
The Process of Nautical Archaeology
Archaeology Underwater
       Underwater archaeology is an exciting and relatively new field of study. New tools are being
devised to help archaeologists carry out their tasks, such as submersible ROV’s used in deep water

      Students will:
            • List some of the methods archaeologists use when working underwater.
            • Answer questions about underwater archaeology.

      • Teacher Background Master, Archaeology Underwater
      • Student copies of Master, Underwater Archaeology Worksheet

      Teacher Preparation:
             Read the Teacher Background Master, Archaeology Underwater. On the basis of your
knowledge of your class and time available, decide whether you want to make copies and distribute
them for students to read or present the information to the class orally.

        A. Introduction
                Elicit a definition of archaeology. Students may either volunteer ideas spontaneously and
build them into a class definition or spend some time researching the term.

       B. Lesson Development
               1. Read or paraphrase the material on Teacher Background Master, Archaeology Under-
water, or distribute copies and allow students time to read them. Distribute copies of Master,
Underwater Archaeology Worksheet, and ask students to answer the questions either individually or
in small groups.

       C. Conclusion
              If they are not already working in groups, divide students into small groups to share and
discuss their answers. If time allows, you may also want to discuss some of the social and ethical
issues that relate to underwater archaeology:
              • Are explorers free to take objects from shipwrecks when they find them?
              • What governmental bodies or agencies have a right to underwater artifacts?
              • What is there about Lake Champlain that makes questions of ownership especially

      For Younger Students
             Instead of distributing the worksheet, write questions 1,4,5,6,and 9 from the master on
the chalkboard and have students write the answers in their notebooks. Then discuss their answers.

      • Archaeology—the scientific study of past human life and culture.

      • Encrustation—a crust or hard coating

      • Corrosion—the process of dissolving metals or other materials by chemical action.

      • In-situ—in its natural or original position

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
Adapted from the JASON Curriculum
Working Draft—March 1994
Archaeology Underwater
       People have always been fascinated with sunken shipwrecks. They conjure up dramatic images
from past events. The submerged vessels are on the bottom of the lake or sea for a variety of
reasons. Some were abandoned after their useful life was over, some sank in battle, while others
sank through some peacetime maritime disaster. They all have in common an ability to enrich our
body of knowledge about the past, because each wreck is a time capsule, freezing its contents for
scientists to study.

       Underwater archaeology is a relatively new field of study. In the 19th century, historic vessels
had to be seen from the surface “at low water” to be found. Fifty years ago, in 1943, Jacques
Cousteau and Emil Gagnon invented the Aqualung, an underwater breathing apparatus. This new
SCUBA gear allows divers to conduct detailed investigation in up to 100 feet of water. Recently,
we have seen another technological leap in the way underwater sites are located and studied.
New advances in electronic remote sensing equipment have radically changed our ability to locate
submerged properties.

         Once a wreck is located archaeologists conduct a preliminary exam of the site to get a sense
of the size and overall characteristics. A plan is then made to document the site. Wrecks at moderate
depths are documented by divers, who use a variety of methods to conduct detailed measuring
of the site. A grid is often established to help map the debris field accurately, and document the
artifacts and construction of the ship. Many times, videography or photography are used as methods
of documenting as well as other electronic or hand held measuring devices. However, in areas of low
visibility, divers must map the site by feeling objects in the mud and then drawing what little can be
seen or measured. This is a chore that may take several weeks or months, but it’s essential because it
helps archaeologists interpret their findings.

        Until recently the only sites accessible to underwater archaeologists were those that could be
worked by divers. Divers, however, work under considerable handicaps. The human body is only able
to withstand the pressure of the deep water for very limited amounts of time, and the greater the
depth the less time humans can spend on the bottom. In addition, chemical action in the body causes
a dulling of the senses (or narcosis) that leaves a diver much less able to use the little time he or
she has. Because of these effects, it is impossible for divers to work at great depths, so humans can
only travel to deep water by submarine. But submarine travel is tremendously expensive: it runs about
$6,000 per hour. It is also inefficient, since only two or three can use the submersible at a time. With
descent and ascent taking valuable time, only about three hours per day are productive.

       All this changed when robotics technology was applied to deep-sea exploration. Dr Robert
Ballard, a geologist, has used ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) to investigate shipwreck sites, after
they have been located in the deep sea. Much of the world watched in wonder in 1985 as Dr. Ballard
revealed the Titanic through the eye of the camera mounted on an underwater robot. This same ROV
technology, with improvements, was used in Dr. Ballard’s expedition to the Mediterranean Sea in 1989,
and again in Lake Champlain to document a deep water wreck called the Sarah Ellen. This 1849 lake
schooner sits intact in over 300 feet of water, preserved so well by the deep cold water, that her name
can still be read in white paint on the transom.

       The Lake Champlain shipwrecks and their artifacts are far better preserved than anything
discovered in the oceans. Unlike the ocean, where marine animals actually eat wooden ships, the
environment of the lake’s cold, fresh water acts as a preservative for these wooden time capsules.
This preserving environment and long record of maritime use is why, today, Lake Champlain has such
a wonderful collection of ships from the past. How our generation treats this collection of shipwrecks
will determine how many will survive for future generations.

       In the years gone by, over a dozen historic vessels were raised from the lake. Time has
taught us that this can be disastrous for submerged wooden ships, most of which cannot survive the
destabilizing transition from water to air without large doses of expensive conservation.

       Nevertheless, if the ships or their contents are to be brought to the surface, archaeological
conservators and other scientists must immediately begin work to preserve them until they can
be transferred to land-based labs. Objects must be kept moist or covered with water to prevent
speeded-up oxidation, encrustation, and drying of organic materials. General treatment then involves
removing encrustation, corrosion, and salts, and applying a protective seal. Scientists use different
treatments for different materials. Archaeologists can’t hammer away at any of the coatings because
they might damage the artifacts.

       Today, there is a new debate concerning the raising of historic ships. It is a very expensive
process to “conserve” a salvaged wooden boat, and not always successful. Nautical archaeology has
given us the tools and methods to study an historic shipwreck underwater (“in-situ”). Today when a
shipwreck is found, nautical archaeology gives us the option to use divers or new electronic survey
equipment to study the boat without having to remove it to the surface.

        Advances in underwater documentation technology has enabled researchers to produce
reports, books, documents, and exhibits which share information about these underwater sites to
children and the public. The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation has opened four of these
historic shipwreck sites as “Underwater Historic Preserves”, which allow divers to more safely locate
and dive on them.

         The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum has recently experimented with a new interpretive
process made possible by this improved archaeological documentation of underwater sites. To satisfy
public interest about what these ships really look like, the Museum has begun a program of building
full-sized and working replicas of historic vessels. In many ways this program has been very success-
ful, allowing people to “see what it looked like” without jeopardizing the original. Once the replica is
completed, the Museum has an operational exhibit, which can be utilized for a variety of interpretive

       This generation is the caretaker of our historic sites, and we can utilize the wealth of informa-
tion that they provide to help us plan for a better future. Recent advances in survey technology have
made it easier to locate these sites. Are we to raise them, mine them, study them, recreate on them,
or leave them alone? These are some of the management questions, which need to be addressed as
we begin to debate the issue. It is important, however, to begin the debate with an understanding that
these shipwrecks are limited, fragile and very special.

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
Adapted from the JASON Curriculum
Working Draft—April 1993
Archaeology Underwater Worksheet

Directions: Answer the following questions.

1. What is underwater archaeology?

2. What are some problems of exploring underwater sites?

3. Why is a submarine an inefficient technology for exploring undersea sites?

4. How is ROV technology changing undersea archaeology?

5. What general treatment follows for artifacts?

6. Why are ships and artifacts in Lake Champlain likely to be better preserved than those in the

7. How can shipwreck sites reveal something about the lives of the sailors who lost their lives in
the wreck?

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
Adapted from JASON Curriculum
Working Draft April 1993
Archaeology Underwater Worksheet

1. Underwater archaeology is the study of material remains of past human life and activity found
submerged in fresh or salt water.

2. The problems of exploring deep underwater sites all relate to the limitations of humans in such an
environment; for example pressure, which limits the amount of time a human can spend submerged.

3. The submarine is an inefficient method because of prohibitive costs and limited productive working

4. ROVs are cheaper than submarines and able to explore deep-water sites that are not accessible
to divers.

5. Archaeological conservators and other scientists on shipboard immediately begin work to preserve
artifacts by keeping them moist to prevent the speed-up of deterioration. After the artifacts are
transferred to more extensively equipped land-based labs, treatment includes removing encrustation,
and coating the artifacts with a protective sealant.

6. The cold, fresh water of Lake Champlain preserve materials far better than salt water and contain
no wood-boring organisms.

7. Personal possessions such as jewelry, dishes, weapons, and tools (but less often fabrics) often
survive to tell archaeologists about the lives of the sailors who once worked or lived on board.
Mapping a Debris
      To identify and reconstruct artifacts found during an archaeological expedition, on land or
underwater, recovery procedures must include mapping the debris field and identifying the location
of each object.

      Students will:
            • Learn the importance of a grid in establishing location and relationships of artifacts.
            • Use a grid to locate artifacts.
            • Use knowledge at hand to develop and revise hypotheses.
            • Identify an underwater debris field and the scatter patterns of the artifacts found there.

      • 4 identical, small clay flower pots, or breakable plates (2 should be broken in 7–9 pieces)
      • 2 coins
      • Deep cardboard box (slightly larger than 8 1⁄2 x 11 sheet of paper)
      • Overhead projector
      • 2 transparencies and student copies made from Master Debris Field Grid
      • student copies made from Master Debris Field Grid
      • Pencils or pens of several colors
      • Aquarium or deep dishpan with sand or aquarium gravel
      • Water
      • Kitchen tongs
      • Master, Debris Fields Worksheet

     Teacher Preparation
           1. Before students come to class, place one of the grid transparencies on the overhead
           projector. Arrange one coin, an inverted clay flower pot, and some of the pieces of an
           identical but broken pot on the grid. You may overlay two of the pieces if you wish.
           Remove the top and bottom from the box and put the box sides around the objects to
           prevent students from seeing them.

              2. Place the other transparency grid in the aquarium or dishpan. Arrange the second
              set of objects (clay pot, pieces from identical clay pot, and coin) in exactly the same
              arrangement as in the overhead grid. Cover the objects with sand or gravel and water.

              Teacher Take Note: If time is limited, you can do a simpler version of this activity by
              skipping the second step of Preparation and step 6 under B. Place only five pieces
              of the broken pot on the overhead, to demonstrate that not all artifacts or parts of an
              artifact are found by archaeologists. This makes their reconstruction and identification
              efforts more difficult.

A. Introduction
        Explain to students that scientists at an archaeological site are concerned not only with the
debris (or remains) they find there, but also with its location and placement. The location or size of a
debris field is determined by the way the ship sank. If a ship sank suddenly, the debris field is likely
to be small. If the ship sank gradually with lots of movement, as in a storm, the debris field is likely to
be larger. In order to develop a precise record of the placement of objects in a debris field, scientists
cover a debris field with a grid. (Students have used a grid to express location if they have ever played
Battleship, or even Bingo. The class will use the same technique in this activity.

B. Lesson Development
      1. Explain that mapping is an integral part of the archaeological process. To conduct their
      exploration efficiently, and be able to share results with all the scientists, scholars, and others
      who have an interest in the project, archaeologists need to determine the exact location of the
      site to be excavated and also acquire an exact record of the placement of artifacts at the site
      and their relationship to one another.

       2. Distribute student copies of Master Debris Field Grid, and discuss how coordinates are
       determined. Ask students to put letters across the top of their grids and numbers down the left
       side to establish locators. Call out a few coordinates to be sure that everyone can find them.

       3. Turn on the projector and explain to students that the images they are seeing are two-
       dimensional, like the images of a camera. Point out that it may not be easy to identify a
       three-dimensional object from two- dimensional information of the kind such a grid will convey.
       Furthermore, objects at archaeological sites are frequently found in pieces. Some pieces may
       be buried and recovered at a later date, and some may never be recovered. A record of the
       placement of fragments may help scientists to determine which ones go together. Ask students
       to guess or hypothesize the identify of the objects.

       4. Ask students to draw each item on their grids in its correct location by grid number and letter.
       This process will simulate the way archaeologists map a recovery site to locate artifacts.

       Teacher Take Note: Students can use different colors to show where objects lie over other
       objects on the transparency

       5. Have a few students come to the tank one at a time to search for artifacts. Using their
       own grids or the overhead projection, they will probe with the tongs at the locations of the
       buried objects. (Make sure students know the proper orientation of the aquarium in relation
       to the grid.)

       6. When all the objects have been recovered, have the class examine them to see if their
       hypotheses were correct. Discuss the following questions with students:

              What are some of the problems in trying to identify actual artifacts from photographs
              or images?

              Do scientists sometimes revise their hypotheses? Under what conditions?

              How did the grid help locate the artifacts? How does a grid help scientists explore
              a debris field.

       7. Distribute Master, Debris Fields Worksheet. Have students read the explanation and com-
       plete the worksheet.

C. Conclusion
      Discuss the worksheet with the class. Ask such questions as:
      • What can you learn about a shipwreck from its debris field?

      • Which ship or ships appear to have been deliberately sunk?

      • What types of artifacts might be found around each type of wreck?

      • Which type of debris field would be found around Benedict Arnold’s gunboat, Philadelphia,
      lost at the battle of Valcour Island?

      • What types of objects might be in that field?

      • Have students explain how they reached their conclusions, and cite the evidence

     For Older Students
           1. Have students read National Geographic articles on locating the Titanic, the Bismarck,
           and the Hamilton and Scourge. Compare the state of preservation of the Hamilton
           and Scourge, found in fresh water, to the Titanic and Bismarck, which went down in
           salt water. (How We Found Titanic, National Geographic 168: 6 (Dec. 1985), 696–719;
           Finding the Bismarck, National Geographic 176:5 (Nov 1989), 622–637; Ghost Ships of
           the War of 1812, National Geographic 163:3 (March 1983), 289–313.)

             2. Discuss the career of a marine archaeologist. What academic preparation would be


      Ar-ti-fact—An artifact is an object made or changed by humans.

      De-bris field—A debris field is an area that contains items of archaeological interest.

      Grid—a grid is a pattern of horizontal and vertical lines forming squares of uniform size on a
      map, used as a reference for locating points.

      Scatter Pattern—the natural arrangement or placement of remains relating to a specific site.

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
Adapted from the JASON Curriculum
Working Draft—April 1993
Debris Fields Worksheet

Directions: Place the letter of each of the wreck site pictures below next to the description that
matches it most closely.

Debris Fields

1. A ship wrecked in a storm has a large field because of the churning water and the tossing of the
vessel. Most things are lost with the vessel. __________

2 A burned and scuttled vessel has a small debris field because many items have been removed prior
to burning and because most of what remained was destroyed by fire.___________

3. A ship sent down in battle goes down rapidly and with little side-to-side motion, so the area of
debris fallout is limited.___________
Debris Field Grid
Sarah Ellen
       Located during a side scan sonar survey in September of 1989, the schooner Sarah Ellen lies
in 300’ of water. Built in Isle La Motte, the Sarah Ellen was operated as a working vessel during
the height of the lake’s commercial period. The Sarah Ellen was built in 1849 by Hiram Fisk who
operated a marble quarry and other interests from this northern island. It was 73’ long, 15’10” wide,
and had two masts and one deck. Later sold to William Bush of Burlington, the vessel was working for
a quarry in Willsboro, New York at the time of her sinking.

       The Sarah Ellen and a second schooner the Daniel Webster were attempting a crossing from
Willsboro to Burlington with quarried stone on December 16, 1860. This was extremely late in the
navigation season and during the crossing the wind and seas became high. Ice covered the decks
and rigging of the vessels and the Sarah Ellen began to sink in the bow. Speculation at the time
pointed to her either springing a plank or taking water into her forward hatch. The true cause has
never been determined.

       What is known is that there were three persons on board the Sarah Ellen, her 21-year-old
captain, Henry Hayward, his new bride Lucy and a crewman. Upon her sinking the three souls were
pitched into the lake and seen clinging to the overturned lifeboat by those on board the Daniel
Webster. The Webster’s lifeboat was so full of ice as to be unusable and the schooner attempted to
aim for the survivors in hopes of being able to pick them up. They struck the lifeboat and grabbed the
crewman, but the young couple was observed trying to support each other before they sank beneath
the lake surface and drowned.

       The tragic story of the Sarah Ellen illustrates a sailing culture that frequently operated at
great peril at the extreme ends of the navigation season. Was this 1860 trip driven by economic
necessity created by economic pressure created by the coming of the railroads? Ironically, a follow
up newspaper reports that the stone being hauled was being delivered to the Rutland Railroad,
presumably for its expansion through the lake.
Preservation of Historical Finds
      The emergence of underwater archaeology has resulted in the discoveries that reveal much
about our cultural heritage. Sites of historical importance must be protected so that future generations
may benefit from the knowledge they impart.

      Students will:
            • Describe the importance of underwater archaeology in learning about our cultural
            • Identify some of the legal problems related to underwater archaeology.
            • Discuss the ownership of shipwrecks in Lake Champlain.

      • Master, Legal Protection for Shipwrecks (student copies optional)
      • National Geographic video, “Sunken Warships” (optional)

       A. Introduction
               Tell students that because of vast improvements in technology a whole new era has
begun in underwater exploration. Over 100 shipwrecks have been found in Lake Champlain and about
25 have been documented and identified. The profusion of new discoveries and the army of amateur
and professional scientists and outright treasure seekers raises significant legal questions about who
owns these finds and how they should be used. In addition, fishers who drag their nets along lake
beds and ocean bottoms and workers who lay underwater cables occasionally disturb shipwrecks
or archaeological sites.

      B. Lesson Development
            1. Have each student list three or four artifacts that he or she saw at the museum (or
            in the video) and describe the potential contribution of each item to our underwater
            cultural heritage. Remind students that these artifacts are important as part of a growing
            collection of data that, taken together, throws new light on the history of the Champlain

             2. Summarize the Shipwrecks Act for the class. You may want to distribute copies of
             Master, Legal Protection for Shipwrecks and allow students to read them on their own.
             Discuss the reasons why the Shipwrecks Act was enacted, and how it pertains to the
             shipwrecks of Lake Champlain.

             3. Have students discuss what might have happened to the Horse Ferry and other
             sunken vessels in Lake Champlain without the Shipwrecks Act to protect them. What
             policies might the surrounding states of New York and Vermont and the province
             of Quebec put in force to protect ships and their artifacts from both accidental and
             deliberate damage?

       C. Conclusion
             Remind students that in the past many shipwrecks and other historical sites have been
destroyed because there were no policies to protect them. Archaeologists have a slogan that may help
your students to remember the social significance of Lake Champlain shipwreck sites such as the
Horse Ferry and the Philadelphia: “The past belongs to the future.”

      Invite students to do one or more of these activities as a follow-up:

             1. Sketch and caption a political cartoon on the legal issues involving underwater
             archaeological exploration and discovery.

             2. Write a paper identifying the differences between an oceanographer and a marine
             archaeologist. Include a discussion of why special training in maritime law is essential
             for each occupation.

             3. Collect clippings from newspapers and magazines (Oceans, Science News, Archaeol-
             ogy, Oceanus, and Underwater USA) on underwater finds. From them arrange a bulletin
             board display on “Underwater Archaeology.”

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
Adapted from the JASON Curriculum
Working Draft—April 1993
Legal Protection for Shipwrecks
Teacher Background Information
       Of an estimated 50,000 shipwrecks in the navigable waters of the United States, from five to
ten percent may have historical significance. These percentages are true in Lake Champlain. Historic
shipwrecks are increasingly recognized as cultural resources that need to be protected.

      Recent technological advances, including the development of sonar and submersibles, have
made shipwrecks easier to reach than ever before. As interest in shipwrecks has grown, disagree-
ments have arisen among people with different kinds of interests: sports divers, who explore
shipwrecks for recreation; treasure hunters, who are interested in their money-making possibilities;
and underwater archaeologists, who want to preserve them for their scientific and cultural value.

        Who owns a shipwreck? Who has the right to manage it and make decisions about its use?
Until recently, in the United States, there were no clear-cut answers. States sometimes claimed title
to and authority over, abandoned historical shipwrecks within their borders. In some places Admiralty
boards or courts, similar to the Maritime Command in Canada and the Department of the Navy in the
United States, have also claimed authority over these resources.

        Admiralty law, developed by the Romans and later modified by English and United States law,
was intended to encourage the salvage (or recovery) of commercial goods from sunken ships. Its
focus is on profit, not cultural resource management or recreation. The two parts of Admiralty law that
apply to shipwrecks are the Law of Finds, the principle that the person finding a shipwreck can lay
claim to it, and the Law of Salvage, which rewards the person who finds a wreck with a percentage of
the goods retrieved. Historic shipwrecks, however, have a value much greater than that of the goods
they contain. They hold priceless historical, cultural, and scientific information. Many people believe
that this information belongs to the world, not just to the individuals who find the wreck.

         It is for this reason that the United States government passed the Shipwrecks Act of 1987.
Under the Shipwrecks Act, when an abandoned shipwreck is found in or on public lands in the U.S.,
title is retained by the national government. If the shipwreck is included in, or determined eligible
for, the National Register of Historic Places, maintained by the Department of the Interior, then title
is transferred to the state in which the shipwreck lies. The state becomes responsible for creating
policies that protect the shipwreck and the surrounding area during the recovery and/or public viewing
of the wreck. The state may then determine what happens to the wreck on the basis of its historical
value, its condition, and any danger to the public that may exist.

        The Shipwrecks Act does not discourage either recreational exploration of shipwreck sites
or private or public salvage of wrecks so long as these efforts respect the historical values and
the environmental integrity of shipwrecks and their sites. The Act is designed to protect historical
sites, natural resources, and habitat areas. It maintains that the states hold title so that someone is
responsible for every valuable archaeological site. In light of past experience, it is clear that the Law of
Finds and the Law of Salvage do not adequately protect any nation’s maritime heritage. The hope is
that states, provinces, and national governments, acting through their historic preservation programs
can best protect this heritage.
Shipwreck Sleuth
        Artifacts provide important clues to a shipwreck’s identity, origin, and cause of sinking. Analysis
of artifacts, and the context in which they are found is an important aspect of nautical archaeology.

      Students will:
            • Recognize the importance of artifacts in interpreting history
            • Use artifacts to develop hypotheses about a past culture
            • Analyze a collection of artifacts from a Lake Champlain shipwreck, and predict the
            vessel’s origin, purpose, and cause of sinking.

     Social Studies

Age Level
     Grades 4–12

      • Copies of Mystery Shipwreck Artifact Collection sheet
      • Teacher Background Information sheet - Mystery Shipwreck Artifact Collection - The True

Time Required
      Allow 30 minutes to prepare this activity, and one class period to complete it.

      Copy the artifact collection sheet for students to work in small groups.

     1. Ask students to imagine that they are SCUBA divers and they have discovered a shipwreck.
     Create a list of questions they have about the wreck (how old is it?, how did it sink?, what was
     it used for?, who was on board?)

       2. List some things that would help answer those questions (physical evidence, ship construc-
       tion, deterioration of materials, etc.)

        3. Explain to students that shipwrecks reveal clues to their identity through structural materials
       and design. Artifacts found in the vessel and its debris field also helps tell the story of the
       people who lived, fought, or worked on board. The context (location) of the artifacts provides
       important clues about how the ship worked, and how it sank. Movement of artifacts without first
       creating a site map would destroy valuable information.

       4. Divide students into small groups and distribute copies of the Artifact Collection sheets.
       Ask students to work together using the clues from the collection of artifacts to develop
       hypotheses for the following questions:
               • What was the purpose of the vessel?
               • What approximate time period on Lake Champlain would this vessel fit into?
               • What types of people were probably on board?
              • What is your best guess about the date and cause of the vessels sinking?

       5. Bring the groups back together and allow each to share their hypotheses. Have students
       explain how they reached their conclusions, and cite the evidence used. (What facts deter-
       mined the date of the vessel? What did they look at to determine how the vessel sank?)

       6. Use the Teacher Background Information sheet to reveal the true story of the shipwreck.
       Highlight details that match the students’ hypotheses.

     • Create a diorama of the General Butler

       • Research the General Butler, or another Lake Champlain shipwreck. Share the findings with
       others in an oral report, art project, or written paper.

       • Create a collection of objects to represent your life. If an archaeologist of the future found
       these artifacts, what story would they tell about your culture.

Teacher Background Information
     Mystery Artifact Collection—The True Story

               This collection of artifacts is from the General Butler, a sailing canal boat, designed to
both sail on the lake and travel on the canals. This design originated in 1823, simultaneous with the
opening of the Champlain Canal.

               On Saturday, December 9, 1876, the General Butler was bringing a load of marble from
Isle la Motte to the marble works in Burlington, Vermont. There were five people aboard; Captain
William Montgomery, his 15-year old daughter and her girlfriend, an injured man being transported to
the hospital, and one deck hand. As the boat approached Burlington the lake was engulfed in a severe
early winter gale, the kind that sailors talk about for years. The force of the storm caused the vessel’s
steering to break, and although the Captain attempted to save the vessel by jury-rigging a tiller bar,
the General Butler crashed into the Burlington breakwater. The vessel survived the pounding of the
gale long enough for passengers, crew, and captain to leap onto the ice-covered stones. Captain
Montgomery was the last to leave the ship. Immediately after he jumped, at the crest of a large wave,
the General Butler sank in forty feet of water, its stone cargo propelling it downward.

                The five survivors were not out of danger. The breakwater is 1000 feet from shore, and
waves were crashing over them. Captain Montgomery and his four passengers would surely have
died if not for the bravery of James Wakefield and his son, who rowed out in a 14-foot rowboat to
rescue the freezing passengers.

                The General Butler was found by divers in 1980, and was the subject of an underwater
archaeological study to document her construction and artifacts. A management plan was developed
for this historic vessel, and she is now one of five shipwrecks open for scuba divers to visit as part of
the Vermont Underwater Historic Shipwreck Preserve.

              Artifacts found in the Bow:
                      • Wooden Deadeye - used for rigging the sails.
                      • Iron Ring and Rope Thimble
                      • Iron Hooks
      • (2) Brown Glass Bottles
      • Green Glass Bottle

Artifacts found in the Stern:
        • Stoneware Jug
        • Nickel Plated Copper Spoons
        • Ceramic Doll
        • Clear Drinking Glass
        • Man’s Leather Boot
        • Ironstone Plate
        • Woman’s Skirt
        • Ironstone Chamber Pot
        • Medicine Bottle
        • Two Gallon Stoneware Crock
Mystery Shipwreck Artifact Collection



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