(CNN)The long-lost paddle wheels from a steamboat shipwreck in 1819 were discovered deep in the waters of Lake Champlain in Vermont.
Avocational diver Gary Lefebvre and his wife Ellen of Colchester, Vermont were exploring the waters of Lake Champlain on August 28 using a remotely operated vehicle when they spotted some wreckage off of Colchester Shoal. Lefebvre contacted the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) and its director of research and archaeology Chris Sabick identified the wreckage as being a paddle wheel belonging to the steamboat Phoenix.The steamboat Phoenix was a 19th century commercial vessel that caught fire and sank 201 years ago on September 4, 1819, forcing all 46 passengers and crew members to abandon ship, according to the LCMM.Most of the passengers and crew were loaded onto small boats and taken to safety, but in the confusion, 12 people were “left behind to fend for themselves,” LCMM said. The next morning, Capt. Richard Sherman and five others were rescued, but six people perished in the lake that day.It is one of the earliest steamship wrecks in US history.Read More”Gary’s amazing discoveries bring one of the most tragic maritime accidents in Lake Champlain’s history into sharp focus in an entirely new and dramatic way,” said Sabick, “They also demonstrate that Lake Champlain still has many stories to tell and archaeological mysteries we can unravel.”Lefebvre discovered a second paddle wheel nearly 100 yards from the first on a second trip to search the area on August 31 at the request of Sabick. The paddle wheels were found approximately a mile away from the hull of the Phoenix.”The bottom of Lake Champlain is a well preserved museum, and I enjoy seeing things for the first time that no one has ever seen on the bottom, or even knew existed,” Lefebvre told CNN.The main hull of the Phoenix is between 60 and 110 feet below the water according to LCMM. It’s also a popular destination for divers, according to CNN affiliate WPTZ. Lefebvre has dived to the Phoenix before, making the find all the more meaningful to him.”The Phoenix is one of the earliest known steamboat wrecks in the United States, and the discovery of the well-preserved paddle wheel structures adds to the significance of this nationally significant Underwater Preserve,” said Scott Dillon, senior historic preservation review coordinator for the Division for Historic Preservation.The shipwreck of the Phoenix is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the Vermont Underwater Historic Preserves.