Friday, September 9, 2011

Wiawaka Bateaux

Looking west from the Wiawaka dock, a navigation buoy (left) and mooring anchor (right) associated
with the Wiawaka Bateaux are visible. Photo by Megan E. Springate, October 10, 2010.

Just off Wiawaka's shoreline are seven sunken British ships known as the Wiawaka Bateaux. Bateaux are flat-bottomed vessels ranging from 25 to 40 feet long and pointed at each end, used to transport people and goods. These, and over 260 other British and provincial vessels were consigned to the cold waters of Lake George in the fall of 1758, with the intent of recovering them the following spring.

This occurred during the French and Indian War (1754-1763), a long-running territorial battle between the English and the French and their various Native American allies that extended from Virginia to Nova Scotia. The Lake George/Lake Champlain corridor was a critically important navigable water route connecting the interior colonies to the St. Lawrence River -- a northern route to the Atlantic Ocean and therefore supplies, colonists, and military support from Europe. Both the English and the French wanted control of this route and the territory surrounding it, and several French and Indian War battles took place in the area.

Drawing of a colonial bateau by Mark Peckham. Image courtesy of Bateaux Below, Inc.

In 1757, the English Fort William Henry, located near Wiawaka at the southern end of Lake George, was destroyed. As a result, the British had no safe place to secure their fleet from French raids during the winter months, when the lake was frozen. To save the fleet, the British sank it. Approximately 75% of the sunken fleet was raised the following spring, but several of the boats, including the seven off the shores of Wiawaka, were not recovered. The organization Bateaux Below, Inc. was instrumental in documenting these vessels and continues to be involved in their stewardship.(1)

The Wiawaka Bateaux (also known as The Sunken Fleet of 1758) are one of three New York State Submerged Heritage Preserves in Lake George. The other two are: the Land Tortoise, a floating gun battery that was also sunk in 1758 and never raised; and The Forward Underwater Classroom. The Wiawaka Bateaux were listed on the National Record of Historic Places in 1992. Divers are welcome to explore the Wiawaka Bateaux. This is an intermediate dive to depths ranging from 20 to 45 feet.(2) To access the site from the Wiawaka property, you must contact Wiawaka's Executive Director in advance.

More information about the Wiawaka Bateaux and other vessels sunk by the British in 1758 can be found at the Raising The Fleet Project: An Arts/Science Collaboration Exploring the Underwater Frontiers of Lake George. In addition to the background information and photos of the vessels, the website includes a series of artwork inspired by the project. Additional resources include the documentary Wooden Bones: The Sunken Fleet of 1758, and the book Lake George Shipwrecks and Sunken History.(3)



Notes:
(1) Bateaux Below, Inc., P.O. Box 2134, Wilton, New York 12831
(2) Information about diving the site, including a map, Lake George conditions and guidelines, can be found on the New York State Department of Environmental Preservation website.
(3) Zarzynski, Joseph W. and Bob Benway (2011) Lake George Shipwrecks and Sunken History, The History Press, Charleston, South Carolina.

Sources:
Raising The Fleet
The Sunken 1758 Fleet

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Megan

Beth forwarded this to me. It is a super article for this history freak. I now have another ologist friend. Beth's significant other Paul is a geologist. Learning all about minerals and rock formations. Hope to spent a long weekend at wiawaka with Beth and get to see your artifacts and hear of your adventures. Beth's Mom Kathy

An Binh said...

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