Did you know that there are hundreds of shipwrecks in Lake Champlain? The Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserve was established by the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation to protect these irreplaceable resources from harm, preserve them for future generations, and provide public access for divers and the public. The Archaeology team at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum manages these sites.
Today, we’re bringing you on a virtual tour of one of these famous wrecks: the steamboat Phoenix.
The Phoenix, built by the Lake Champlain Steamboat Company and launched in 1815, was the second commercial steamboat on Lake Champlain. The steamer, commanded by Captain Jahaziel Sherman, maintained a regular schedule between Whitehall, NY and St. Johns, Quebec, with stops at other lake ports along the route. At 11:00 P.M. on September 4, 1819, the Phoenix left Burlington for Plattsburgh, NY, with 46 passengers and crew, under the command of Captain Sherman’s son, Richard. An unusual glow in the amidships galley provided the first warning that a fire had broken out on board.
We’ve paired our underwater tour of the wreck with Phoenix’s dramatic tale as narrated by Adam Kane. This audio was recorded in 2009 by VPR and broadcast on July 28, 2009 as part of VPR’s “History Under the Waves,” Champlain 400 coverage.
Sit back and dive in!
Prior to its dramatic and mysterious end, the Phoenix also hosted President James Monroe onboard in 1817. You can also learn more about how the Phoenix fits into the career of Captain Jahaziel Sherman in our digital exhibit, Jahaziel Sherman of Vergennes, Steamboat Pioneer.