Rouses Point Barge (Wreck WW)

Wreck WW (VT-GI-35) was a previously known vessel located within the 2000 Lake Survey area. Wreck WW was preliminarily documented in one dive in June 2000. Its moderately well preserved remains lie in shallow water near Rouses Point, New York. The vessel is adjacent to the Rouses Point trestle, and is denoted on NOAA Lake Champlain Chart Riviere Richelieu to South Hero Island. The vessel has an overall length of 100ft (30.5m), a breadth of 30ft 2in (9.2m), and a depth of 9ft 5in (2.9m). The exact manner of its deposition on the bottom of the lake is unknown, but the absence of cargo indicates it was abandoned or scuttled. The barge’s proximity to the trestle suggests that it may have been used in one of the construction or repair episodes for that structure.

Preliminary site plan of Wreck WW. Drawn by Adam Kane.

The vessel’s hull is heavily built using the plank-on-frame method. The decay of the vessel has occurred in a manner conducive to its documentation. One entire side has splayed off from the rest of the hull and lies adjacent to the other remains, while the other side is partially separated from the hull. The sides are vertical, and are composed of planking held together with futtocks. The futtocks are 7in (17.8cm) sided and 8in (20.3cm) moulded, with room and space of 1ft 6in (45.7cm). The base of each futtock originally mortised into a chine log.

The barge’s deck layout consists of raised decks at either end and a recessed central deck serving as a large open cargo hold. The raised decks are 6ft (1.8m) long and span the vessel’s width. The recessed cargo hold, which comprises the hull’s central section, is heavily built with three overlapping layers of planking (Figure 10-4). The bottom layer of planking is laid longitudinally, and is overlain with transverse planking and finally diagonal planking. The cargo hold is supported from below by a series of large bilge stringers and riders which connect the deck to the bottom of the hull. Each end of the hull has a 7in (17.8cm) wide iron fender protecting the ends. This feature was heavily encrusted with zebra mussels, thus obscuring all of its construction details. The foredeck and after deck also contain several deck features such as iron bollards, cleats, fairleads, and bilge pump.

Photo showing the three overlapping layers of deck planking on Wreck WW. Photo by Pierre LaRocque.

Although the name and history of this vessel is currently not known, several conclusions can be made based on the material remains. The dimensions of the barge (100ft by 30ft 2in by 9ft 5in [30.5 by 9.2 by 2,9m]) are consistent with vessels built after the completion of the Champlain Barge Canal in 1916. The Rouses Point barge was likely built along the Hudson waterway shortly after this last canal enlargement. The heavily-built open structure of the vessel, evidenced by the overlapping decking and open cargo hold, indicate that it was used to transport bulk non-perishable cargo. This type of vessel would have lent itself to the transportation of stone, iron ore, or coal.

The Rouses Point Barge is a candidate for preserve status in the Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserve Program. Prior to its inclusion the remains should be documented more extensively, as the results presented here represent only a preliminary archaeological survey. Further documentation should focus on detailed archaeological documentation. Although the site is quite shallow, thus removing many concerns that accompany deep sites, the area is subject to significant currents making the dive more challenging than some divers might realize. The site itself is large and interesting, and is considered to have minimal archaeological sensitivity.

Information Source: 
Adam I. Kane and Christopher R. Sabick, Lake Champlain Underwater Cultural Resources Survey, Volume IV: 1999 Results and Volume V: 2000 Results. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, 2002.