Dive Into (Recent) History

Lake Champlain may soon have a new wreck to explore.

By Sophie Hiland

You probably won’t be traveling to the Great Barrier Reef or elsewhere this summer, but you can get dive certified and explore wrecks on Lake Champlain. And next summer there may be a new wreck to add to your bucket list.

The Lake Champlain Transportation Company and local environmental, historical and recreation groups have worked together to find a new future for The Adirondack, the 107-year-old ferry boat, that has worked on Lake Champlain for the past 65 years.

LCTC plans to do a controlled sinking so that the ship sits upright on the bottom of the lake in the coming year. The boat will be sunk 68 feet and its new visitors may include divers and some of the 90 different species of fish that live in the lake. LCTC is footing the roughly $175,000 bill.

The yellow pin shows the proposed sinking site for the Adirondack, half a mile south of Lone Rock Point. Map credit: Chris Sabick, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

There are hundreds of shipwrecks in the lake and many are too deep or murky to be safe for divers to explore. However, The Adirondack will join ten other wrecks which are protected from looting and damage by the Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserve which is operated by the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation.

The Lake Champlain shipwrecks, which vary in age and type, provide divers with the opportunity to explore history and marine life at the same time. According to Scott Dillon who works for the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, “diving these wrecks allows for face to face participation in the long history of maritime activity on the lake. You can’t get it any other way.” While diving in Lake Champlain is a less vibrantly colorful experience than diving in the Caribbean or other tropical sites, Dillon explained that the cold fresh water in the lake preserve wrecks especially well. “You have essentially the whole history of US maritime activity reflected in the types of wrecks in the lake.”

Jonathan Eddy, co-owner of the Waterfront Diving Center in Burlington, adds that the lake is home to “a range of great structures and vertical walls” which make underwater exploring especially interesting as fish thrive in areas that provide them structure and protection and introduce more variation to the underwater landscape. Eddy also explains that a large variety of fish, ranging from salmon to lingcod can be found throughout the lake but that during the summer months they move to water deeper than where divers usually venture.

Anyone with appropriate dive certification can explore the protected wrecks, either through guided adventures led by companies such as Waterfront Diving Center or, independently, off private boats. The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum requests that divers register seasonally, at no cost, through their website in order to track how many divers visit the sites. lcmm.org/archaeology

With about a year until The Adirondack rests on the bottom of the Lake, now is the perfect time to get scuba certified. The Waterfront Diving Center in Burlington offers week long certification courses $550, and gear rental for divers with previous experience. They also do two charters a week on Wednesday evenings and Saturdays or Sundays mornings for varying levels of divers, starting at $55, plus equipment rental fees. “Try Scuba” events, which take place monthly and cost $45, teach the basic dive principles and how the gear works. Participants then “dive” in a safe environment like a pool or shallow part of a lake.

“Diving is perceived to be an extreme sport but it really isn’t,” says Eddy. “As long as you are in reasonably good health, are a competent swimmer, use good judgement, and take the necessary sanitation precautions due to the pandemic, the sport is incredibly safe.”

With a laugh, he adds a classic diving joke, “one of the most serious injuries in diving is somebody dropping a weight belt on their foot.”

Featured photo: Chris Sabick, Director of Research and Archealogy at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, explores a wreck. The newest wreck will be sunk right off Burlington.

Read more about diving in Lake Champlain in our article New Lake Champlain Wreck Open For Divers.

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