Friday, January 06, 2006

 

DVD tells story of sunken 1758 warship

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Press & Sun-Bulletin
By Dena Pauling
January 01, 2006


It was June 26, 1990, when the fireworks went off, underwater archaeologist Joseph Zarzynski said.

He and four others on his archeological team had stumbled upon a shipwreck while doing sonar work in Lake George. The lake has at least 200 of them, but this one was different.

The seven-sided floating fortress, now called The Lost Radeau, was used by the British in 1758 during the French and Indian War. Though it's been underwater for nearly 250 years, the wooden warship is about 98 percent intact.

And now everybody can see the national historical landmark without putting a foot in the water.

Zarzynski — formerly of Endicott and a graduate of Ithaca College and Binghamton University — and graphics animator J.R. Whitesel of Queensbury wrote a 57-minute documentary about the history, discovery and study of the 52-foot-long Land Tortoise. After a year and a half in the making, the DVD was released in December.

"When you try to describe the ship to people they kind of look at you like you are from outer space," said the 55-year-old Zarzynski, who lives in the Saratoga Springs area. "Now we have the perfect medium to get this out to the general public, and I did want to share it with my hometown people."

The floating gun battery, deliberately sunk by the British to prevent battle craft from falling into the hands of the French and their American Indian allies, lies in 107 feet of water about two miles from the lake's south end.

Zarzynksi said the ship has been preserved because of the lake's pristine conditions. Unlike other lakes, George does not have an abundance of zebra muscles — hard-shelled creatures that attach themselves to waterways and boats, and litter beaches with shell fragments.

According to the Darrin Fresh Water Institute in Bolton Landing, three juvenile zebra muscles were removed from a boat launch site in Lake George in November 2004, but no new information has been reported by the institute since then. The phenomenon is the subject of ongoing research.

Locally, the shipwreck and the DVD have created a "big splash," Zarzynski said. Many who frequently boat near the large buoy that marks the location of the underwater warship didn't know much about the ship until now.

"This is the kind of wreck that Hollywood would show you because it's intact," he said. "But a lot of people don't know about it because it's out of sight, out of mind."

Peter Pepe, who owns Pepe Productions in Glens Falls, said the only people who really experienced the shipwreck were divers.

"We brought the shipwreck to the surface so to speak, so everyone can see it and enjoy it," Pepe said. "So many people have heard rumors about a shipwreck in Lake George, but never really understood it."

As a producer Pepe said he's done "some really cool" films in England, Hawaii and Baton Rouge, but the Lake George documentary has been the most exciting.

" There's a lot of buzz going on about it," he said. "It's funny sitting in a restaurant and hearing people talk about 'that DVD about Lake George.' "


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