Monday, January 28, 2008

 

Explorer examines, discusses lost remains

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Burlington Free Press
By Joel Banner Baird
January 28, 2008


For 50 days in an average year, Adam Kane slips beneath the waves of Lake Champlain to prowl among the rotten remains of ships.

It's a job: Kane methodically charts and measures shipwrecks for the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes.

Landlubbers might more comfortably follow his progress at a talk Kane will give at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Old Brick Church in Williston, hosted by the town's historical society.

The water's cold at 50 or 60 feet beneath the surface, even in the summer, but Kane and his colleagues at the museum's Nautical Archaeology Project wear dry suits to keep off the chill.

They tote measuring and recording tools, cameras and video recorders.

Underwater visibility improves in the winter, Kane said: less runoff and fewer muddying currents make for clear depths.

But there's a downside that keeps him inside these days.

"There's a whole different diving protocol in the winter," he said. "Typically there's a lot of ice, and if you can't find your way back to your access hole, you're out of luck. You run out of air, and you die."

During the colder months, Kane concentrates on more academic pursuits. He oversees mapping projects and the reconstruction of vessels from drawings. He helps piece together clues that tell a larger story: the history of a busy waterway that still channels vessels from New York City to Quebec City.

"Burlington was the most important port on Lake Champlain," he said. "If you're on the bike path, you're walking within a stone's throw of several dozen wrecks."

Over the past 10 years, sonar surveys have revealed the remains of about 300 shipwrecks.

"Nine of them are open to the public and are seasonally maintained with marker buoys," Kane said. "That's not to say there aren't a few out there that we missed."

Dive shops in the area can direct novice explorers to the right equipment and training, he added.

Contact Joel Banner Baird at 660-1843 or joelbaird@bfp.burlingtonfreepress.com

Find out more at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum Web site: http://www.lcmm.org/.


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