Lake Ontario has revealed the wreckage of presumably the very first propeller steamships, thanks to the efforts of a team of researchers based in New York. The steamer drowned killing twenty crew members on board after it was caught in a severe storm some 150 years ago. The wreckage is resting hundreds of feet deep in the lake, roughly seven miles off Fair Heaven and some 155 miles west of Albany.
One fateful day in 1862, the steamer named ‘Bay State’ was on a routine trip to deliver general merchandise to Ohio from Oswego. A surprise storm surrounded the steamer forcing the captain to make the crucial decision to turn back to Oswego. According to Jim Kennard who is an avid shipwreck enthusiast since 1970, captain’s decision to abandon the tour was essentially the beginning of the end of the ‘Bay State’ and everyone on board.
The 137-foot-long Steamer was no match to the strong winds produced by the massive storm and soon it started to disintegrate. The top deck of the two-tiered ship started breaking apart from the ship and in a very short time the steamer along with all its crew was at the bottom of the Lake. The debris of the ship scattered some quarter of a mile at the bottom, giving a clear idea of the strength of the storm and devastation it brought for the crew. (Mail Online)
Kennard along with his other shipwreck hunter friend Roger Pawlowski, conducted a detailed scanning the Lake Ontario in August, with the technical aid from National Museum of Great Lakes in Toledo, Ohio. While scanning the south eastern shore of the Lake, the team came across a wide area of a possible debris site of the shipwreck. Upon closer inspection conclusive evidence came forward, the team located a large chunk of a ship which turned out to be a part of Bay State.
According to Kennard, after detecting the possible debris on the scanner they had to send video equipment on board a Remotely Operated Vehicle or ROV to help further identify the objects found. Unfortunately the $45,000 vehicle got stuck in a massive chunk of debris and could not be freed immediately.
Due to the unfavourable conditions and other technical limitations, it took the team another month before they could retrieve the expensive equipment from the Lake bottom. The team of divers that took part in the retrieval of the vehicle reported seeing a large propeller and other parts of the ship, which further solidified the theory that the wreckage belonged to Bay State. New York state law prevents salvaging of any historic relics found in the waters; however the team is hoping to come back next year in order to photograph the wreckage in high definition, which could then be presented to historians and other preservationists for the record and the possible retrieval of the wreckage.
Image (Roger Pawlowski)