Steamboat L.J.N. Stark (Wreck YY)

The remains of the L.J.N. Stark were first examined in 1982 by a group of local divers. This group took measurements of the vessel and noted the significant features of the wreck. In 2000 the remains were relocated via the sonar survey, and were preliminarily documented by LCMM in September 2000.

Plan drawing of steamboat L.J.N. Stark

L.J.N. Stark was built at Whitehall, New York as a steam-towboat in 1868-69 for the Northern Transportation Line. It was constructed with a specially designed hull, with “nothing more or less than one boat inside of another. In cases of running on a rock it would have been impossible to have broken through more than one hull.” (Plattsburgh Republican 14 August 1870) Unfortunately, the reinforced hull was not fireproof, and in her second season of operation, L.J.N. Stark caught fire and burned to the waterline.

It occurred in the early morning hours of August 5, 1870, while L.J.N. Stark was headed north with six barges in tow. The fire apparently started in the “lamp room” and quickly engulfed the ship in fire and smoke. Captain Arbuckle and crew attempted to extinguish the blaze, but it was quickly determined that the vessel was beyond saving. The Captain then ran to recover the ship’s papers and $4000 in cash while the Stark’s three lifeboats were lowered. As the burning ship headed into shallow water, its barges were cut loose and taken in tow by a “French schooner” until the tug Bascom took over. The pilot, Mr. Collins, was “badly burned on his face and hands”, and one crewman, named Longware, “was so terrified that he jumped overboard and was drowned” (Burlington Free Press and Times 6 August 1870). L.J.N. Stark ran aground on Point Au Roche reef and burned to the waterline. Her boilers and engines were later removed, and the hull abandoned.

The hull remains are 115ft (35.1m) long and 31ft 6in (9.6m) in beam. The vessel’s structure is heavily encrusted with zebra mussels, obscuring many features. The hull is largely flat-bottomed and consists of the keel, planking, floors, futtocks, keelson, bilge stringers, and ceiling. Neither the bow nor stern has survived, making the identification of fore-and-aft difficult at this stage in the vessel’s documentation. The framing pattern is similar to that seen on Champlain II with the floors spaced at tighter intervals through the center of the hull (1ft [30.5cm] on centers). The floors are positioned 2ft (61cm) on centers at each end. The primary longitudinal features are the keelson and six bilge stringers. Each run much of the length of the hull, and even when they are no longer present their location can be determined by wrought iron bolts that fastened them to the floors. The 1982 survey noted that “Stark 8-5-1870” was carved onto the keelson at the northern end of the vessel, however, this feature may now be obscured by zebra mussels, as it was not noted during the 2000 documentation.

The most prominent feature of the site are the numerous bent tie iron rods and tubing pieces located in the center of the hull. These features likely related to the engine and boiler. These metal pieces have been warped by either the initial destruction of the vessel by fire or the later movement of ice. Numerous bricks and brick fragments are located in the bottom of the hull in the vicinity of the tie rods; these provided a base for the boiler. Three through-holes were also noted in this examination of the hull. The exact purpose of each one has not been determined, but in general these would have been used to remove bilge water or water from the condenser, or to take in water to fill the boiler. The area surrounding the vessel may contain features related to the vessel. A cursory examination of this area revealed an iron capstan.

Information Source :
Kane, A. and C. Sabick, Lake Champlain Underwater Cultural Resources Survey, Volume IV: 1999 Results and Volume V: 2000 Results. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, 2002.