Steamboat Graveyard Just Below Surface in Shelburne

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There are more than 200 shipwrecks at the bottom of Lake Champlain, from shipping vessels to warships.
 
Some sunk from attack or accidents but others were just left to rot until sinking in what are now called steamboat graveyards like the one nautical archaeologists from Texas A&M are studying in Shelburne.
 
Carolyn Kennedy and Kevin Chrisman are co-directors of the Shelburne Shipyard Steamboat Graveyard project. Kennedy is a PhD student at Texas A&M, Chrisman is her advisor and a professor at A&M, both are from the area.
 
“You don’t see anything on the surface here but as soon as you go underwater, it’s just these enormous timbers sticking out with all these bolts and iron things. It’s just really a weird experience.” Kennedy said.
 
Just in the small area near Aske Marina, south of Shelburne Shipyard, there are four shipwrecks including the one Kennedy and her team are focusing on this year.
 
The project was pretty sure it was the Phoenix II based on old records and current measurements but didn’t know for sure until finding a chisel marked ‘SB Phoenix’ last week after three years searching that area of the bay. 
 
“This is one of those things they show in the movies all the time but actually never happens in real life.” Kennedy said of the find.

The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum supports the Steamboat Graveyard Project with supplies, workspaces and people.

“There are so many shipwrecks on Lake Champlain,” said museum archeological director Chris Sabick, “That the Maritime Museum is always looking for good partners and relationships that help us document and understand those shipwrecks better.”

Kennedy sees a parallel with the stories these shipwrecks tell about life in the first half of the 19th century to our lives now. 
 
“If you think about it, for 2-3,000 more years, everything was being done by manpower or wind power.” explained Kennedy. “Then in just a matter of 43 years boats changed completely.”
 
“It’s a reflection on society and how we were willing to accept changes. And it’s kind of the beginnings of all these new technological changes that are still happening now.” Shed continued. “Everybody talks about how oh yea, my cell phone is outdated in like two years and it’s over. Well, it was the same thing. This is the very beginning of that.” 
 
She’s using all of the Shelburne Shipyard Steamboat Graveyard Project’s findings to write her dissertation but the group also shares what it finds on its Facebook page.
 
“We want to get this stuff out there because this is everybody else’s history.” Kennedy said.
 
The group plans to finish research on Friday, June 16. What’s the Texas-Vermont connection? Kennedy grew up in Montreal and her grandparents have a home on the New York side of Lake Champlain. Chrisman is from Vermont and has done a lot of research on the lake.
 
Texas A&M is one of the top nautical archaeology schools in the country and is also home to the Institute of Nautical Archaeology.

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