Century-old Shipwreck Preserves Artifacts of Canal Life

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(Host) A late nineteenth century shipwreck discovered on the floor of Lake Champlain will be the subject of a study by the Lake Champlain Maritime Musuem.

The Sloop Island Wreck, a 97-foot-long canal boat, was found intact. Five other canal boats are currently located at the bottom of Burlington’s Barge Canal. But those vessels don’t contain artifacts. The boats were used to haul cargo, and also served as homes to ship workers and their families.

Art Cohn is executive director of the Musuem. He says the study will expand understanding of canal boat construction and nineteenth century shipbuilding technology. He adds the vessel will provide a rare glimpse into canal boat life, and the people who lived aboard.

(Cohn) “This one vessel is highly significant in not only its similar class to the barge canal boats, but because the vessel out in the broad lake is a true shipwreck. It sank in unplanned circumstances, which means it’s a true snapshot of its moment in time. We believe that this vessel will contain one 100% of the material culture that was on board this vessel to support the life of the people who operated the boat prior to its sinking.”

(Host) The project is a result of remedial work at Burlington’s Pine Street Canal Superfund site in Burlington. The $150,000 excavation is being done in conjunction with Green Mountain Power and the Environmental Protection Agency. Recovered artifacts will be displayed at the Maritime Research Institute at Basin Harbor.

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