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Underwater Archaeology Field School 2015

June 2015 on Lake Champlain

Students document the Diamond Island Stone Boat. Photo by Sam Meacham
Students document the Diamond Island Stone Boat. Photo by Sam Meacham.

This year, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is partnering with Texas A & M University's Nautical Archaeology Program to host a rigorous four-week program that offers a mix of both academic instruction and hands-on underwater archaeological research, exclusively for students attending Texas A & M.  The diving sessions will teach practical underwater skills using both traditional documentation techniques and cutting-edge technology, while the classroom component will provide students with an opportunity to train in GIS, study CRM practices, and learn about local history and artifact conservation methods.
Lake Champlain, situated between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondacks in New York, offers a stunningly beautiful setting that is steeped in history.  The region played a critical role in the French and Indian War, Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812, and featured a dynamic commercial era with thousands of steamboats, schooners, sloops, and canal boats on its waters.  The dramatic heritage of Lake Champlain has resulted in a unique archaeological collection of approximately 300 shipwrecks, many of which are in an outstanding state of preservation.

Follow their progress on the Shelburne Steamboat Graveyard Blog or Facebook page!

Schedule & Expectations

The project includes a combination of classroom work, lecture, discussion, and presentations; and fieldwork components, such as a diving and skills exercises. There may be an occasional field trip and evening lecture and discussion. Our program features two gems on Lake Champlain: the lake-wide underwater state park Lake Champlain Historic Preserve; and LCMM’s own Conservation Lab. The 2015 season focuses on a steamboat graveyard in the waters surrounding the historic Shelburne Shipyard, in Shelburne, Vermont. These sites include the remains of at least three, possibly four, nineteenth century steamboats in shallow water (<10ft).


Participants in the 2012 Fieldschool on Lake Champlain


Participants in the Lake Champlain Fieldschool
Participants in the Lake Champlain Fieldschool.

Suggested Reading List

Underwater Archaeology: The NAS Guide to Principles and Practice (paperback) by the Nautical Archeology Society

Lake Champlain’s Sailing Canal Boats by Arthur B. Cohn

Sails and Steam in the Mountains: A Maritime and Military History of Lake George and Lake Champlain by Russell P. Bellico

Canal Boat J. D. Hindes

Tuition & Housing

The 2015 Field School is open exclusively for students attending Texas A & M University. Tuition and credit will be handled through the university.

Housing will be provided, with partial meals included. If you have any dietary requirements, concerns about housing, or require any other accommodations, please contact the Field School Coordinator. Upon acceptance to the program, students will be provided with a list of rules and safety regulations, any violation of which may result in immediate dismissal without a refund.


Students must meet the following diving, equipment, and medical prerequisites in order to participate in this program:


Questions? Contact

Christopher Sabick, Archaeological Director
4472 Basin Harbor Rd
Vergennes, VT 05491


Photos from the 2013 Fieldschool

About the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and its Staff

The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum was founded in 1986. We are a non-profit museum in Vergennes, Vermont with a mission to study, preserve, and share the rich history and archaeology of Lake Champlain. Starting in an original historic stone schoolhouse, LCMM has grown to more than a dozen buildings, a blacksmith arts center, a shipyard in Burlington, VT, the Research Vessel Baldwin, and three full-scale wooden replica vessels, including the 1862 canal schooner Lois McClure and the Revolutionary War gunboat Philadelphia II.  

The LCMM’s archaeological research arm, known as the Maritime Research Institute, provides high-quality underwater cultural resource management services to the public and private sectors.  Our team of archaeologists, historians, and conservators have unsurpassed expertise their fields.  Since 1986, the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum has conducted dozens of archaeological studies, ranging from multi-year remote sensing surveys to the Phase III study of individual shipwrecks.

Our research philosophy strives to combine efficient work practices with a desire to leave a legacy of thorough and meaningful scholarship. The resulting work products will be of us to generations of researchers. Recent archaeological projects include a 10-year systematic sonar survey of the bottom of Lake Champlain to map and document previously unknown wooden shipwrecks threatened by zebra mussels; the first-ever archaeological mapping of a submerged battleground (Valcour Bay); and the development of a management plan for the U.S. Navy for Benedict Arnold’s gunboat Spitfire, which the Museum discovered in 1997.  Recent conservation projects include the archival repackaging of 12,000 artifacts for the West Point Military Academy; the documentation and conservation of 130 Native American lead effigies and Jesuit rings for the New York State Museum; and the conservation of timbers inadvertently removed from historic Fort Edward during the Hudson River PCB Dredging Project in Fort Edward, New York.

Recent projects include:

About Texas A&M University's Nautical Archaeology Program

Established in 1976, the Nautical Archaeology Program is a part of the Department of Anthropology at Texas A&M University. The program focuses on the history of wooden ship construction, seafaring through the ages, maritime commerce, cargoes, and ports, and the techniques used to record, analyze and conserve the material remains of these activities. Students and faculty of the Nautical Archaeology Program conduct underwater archaeological research in conjunction with the Institute of Nautical Archaeology in various regions of the world, delving into time periods from prehistory to the recent past, and working with a plethora of societies and cultures. Students attending the program work in the classroom as well as in the field, and are encouraged to pursue individual projects that will help direct nautical archaeology's future.


Project Team

Arthur B. Cohn, LCMM Co-Founder and Special Projects Developer
Arthur B. Cohn is the co-founder and former Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Art has a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Cincinnati, a J.D. from Boston College, and honorary degrees from Middlebury College and the University of Vermont. Over the last 30 years, he has directed most of the underwater archaeological projects in Lake Champlain. Art worked for the passage of the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987 and in 2000-2001 was a member of the United States delegation to the UNESCO treaty conference on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage. Since 1985 Art has served as coordinator of the State of Vermont’s Underwater Historic Preserve program.  The author of Lake Champlain Sailing Canal Boats: An Illustrated Journey from Lake Champlain to the Hudson River, Art also directed the Lois McClure Project, creating a full-sized replica of an 1862-class Lake Champlain canal schooner to travel the region’s interconnected northern waterways as an ambassador to its history and shipwrecks.

Christopher R. Sabick, LCMM Interim Archaeological Director and Director of Conservation
Chris Sabick joined the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in 1998, and has been the Director of Conservation since 2000. He earned a B.A. in history and anthropology from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, and a M.A. in anthropology from the Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University. His thesis work focused on the history and construction of the Great Lakes Schooner Nancy (1789-1814).

Dr. Kevin Crisman, Texas A&M University
Dr. Kevin Crisman received a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Vermont in 1981, an M.A. from the Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M in 1984, and a Ph.D. in American Civilization from the University of Pennsylvania in 1989. He has been a member of the Nautical Archaeology Program Faculty at Texas A&M University since 1990 and holds the Nautical Archaeology Faculty Fellowship. Dr. Crisman specializes in world seafaring from A.D.1400 to the present and teaches courses in New World seafaring, post-Medieval European seafaring, and historical archaeology. He has directed or participated in the underwater investigation of numerous wrecks, including sailing merchant craft, naval ships, steamers, and canal boats. Dr. Crisman's publications include The Eagle: An American Brig on Lake Champlain During the War of 1812 (New England Press and Naval Institute Press) and When Horses Walked on Water: Horse-Powered Ferries in Nineteenth-Century America (Smithsonian Institution Press; co-authored with Arthur Cohn). He is most recently editor of Coffins of the Brave: Lake Shipwrecks of the War of 1812, published in 2014, in which he and his co-authors examine sixteen examples of 1812-era naval and commercial shipbuilding.

Sarah L. Tichonuk, LCMM Assistant Archaeological Director
Sarah Tichonuk joined the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in 2002.  Sarah has a B.A. in archaeology from Boston University, and worked as a crew chief for a contract archaeology firm in upstate New York. At the Maritime Museum, Sarah has worked various capacities including nautical archaeologist, Education Director, graphic designer, and webmaster. She holds a Divemaster certification through the National Association of Underwater Instructors.

Paul Willard Gates, Conservation Lab Technician
Paul Gates joined the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in 2008.  He has a B.A. from the University of Vermont in History and Minor in Archaeology. Paul is also an EMT for Charlotte Rescue and serves on the board of his family’s foundation.

Alex Lehning, Historian & Research Coordinator
Alex joined the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in 2008. Originally from Ohio, he earned an undergraduate degree in History at the University of Maine and completed graduate study in History at the University of Vermont. In addition to his work in the Conservation Lab, Alex serves as the Coordinator for LCMM's Nautical Archeology Field School. While his primary responsibilities are artifact preservation and documentation, he also assists with historical research, archaeological fieldwork, and educational programming. Alex's interests include European and American history, historical archeology, and the digital humanities. He currently volunteers as an Archeology Merit Badge Counselor for local Boy Scouts.

Pierre LaRocque, Archaeological Diver & Logistical Coordinator
Pierre LaRocque has been affiliated with the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum since 1995 and a NAUI scuba diving instructor for the past 20 years. He graduated with a B.A. from the University of Vermont where he majored in history and anthropology with an emphasis in nautical archaeology. LaRocque is a Monitor for the Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserve. His experience with tri-mix/deep diving, ice diving, and underwater photography and videography He also holds a USCG Captain's Master's License with a towing endorsement.


Questions? Contact

Christopher Sabick, Archaeological Director
4472 Basin Harbor Rd
Vergennes, VT 05491