The Champlain II was originally named the Oakes Ames when it was launched in Burlington in 1868. It was built to ferry railroad cars from Burlington to Plattsburgh. In 1874, the Champlain Transportation Co. converted Oakes Ames into one of the line vessels for passenger transport and renamed it the Champlain II.
Line drawing of the Champlain II
Champlain II aground with visiting spectators.
Champlain II‘s career ended on the night of July 16, 1875. While at dock in Westport, NY, the pilots changed shifts with John Eldredge taking over the wheel from Ell Rockwell. Rockwell would later recount that John Eldredge had “appeared glum.” The Champlain II headed north out of Westport, and a short time later the enormous steamer ran aground near Barn Rock.
Rockwell immediately returned to the pilothouse to see what was amiss. Eldredge turned to Rockwell and asked, “Can you account for my being on the mountain?” All persons on board were safely disembarked on shore. An investigation found that Eldredge had been taking morphine to relieve the symptoms of a disorder called gout.
Champlain II was only insured against fire. The Champlain Transportation Co. tried to recoup some of its losses by salvaging the engines and superstructure, but the submerged stern section was allowed to remain.
Features of Interest
- Size of wreck: 163′ of the original 244′ long hull remains, 34′ wide.
- The vessel’s sternpost is situated closest to shore and is unstable. Avoid contact.
- Note the massive engine mounts on either side.
- Note the frames broken from impact near the deeper end of the wreck.
- Experience level: Beginner.
- Depth of water: 15′ – 35′
- The bottom is silty. Stay off the bottom to avoid limited visibility.
- The vessel is infested with zebra mussels. Gloves are recommended to avoid cuts.
- Beware of overhanging sections of the vessel.
- Watch for fishing line; carry a knife.
- 44 12′ 21.60″N 073 22′ 34.80″W
- The wreck lies close to the New York shore between Barn Rock and Rock Harbor, north of Westport, NY, and across from Basin Harbor, VT.
- THE SHORELINE IS PRIVATE