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|Guest Contributors... Edwin R. Scollon|
Diving Lake Champlain...
The Valcour Bay Research Project-X (a)
A ceremony celebrating the 225th anniversary of American independence and the Battle of Valcour was scheduled for June 30, 2001. The ceremony would coincide with the recovery of the artifacts that the VBRP had encountered in their two-year study. Both events would take place upon the deck of the Lake Champlain Transportation Companyís ferry Adirondack. As VBRP members arrived at Peru Dock the day before, they had plenty of work ahead of them. The smaller artifacts had to be gathered and packaged and the cannon pieces were yet to be rigged.
The initial plan was to bring the artifacts directly from the bottom of the bay to the Adirondackís decks just prior to the ceremony. With the forecasted arrival of a low-pressure system, strong south winds and high seas, it was readily apparent to the VBRP team that other arrangements would have to be made. If weather conditions deteriorated before the ceremony, as projected, a recovery from the Adirondack would be difficult. Furthermore, the difficult recovery of the heavy cannon would unnecessarily endanger the passengers upon her crowded decks. Fortunately, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum Executive Director, Art Cohn, had already made arrangements with the U.S. Coast Guard to assist the team with the recovery. A fifty-foot buoy-tender and a smaller support craft were on the way from their Burlington, Vermont station. The plan was now to secure the artifacts upon the buoy-tender. The next dayís ceremony could then be conducted within a sheltered bay of Valcour Island.
Before the arrival of the U.S. Coast Guard and before the weather worsened, VBRP members carefully gathered, packaged and recovered the smaller artifacts. They also deployed a series of buoys to assist the buoy tender in taking position once it arrived.
The buoy-tender had transported a large mooring pad upon her deck. Once the tender arrived, her crew went to work. All that was left for the team & crew to recover were three pieces of cannon and the large fragment of its carriage. With buoys marking the positions of the cannon, the Coast Guard crew deployed the mooring pad at a safe distance. The buoy-tender was then secured to the pad and remained as a work platform for the VBRP divers.
VBRP diver, Todd Bissonette, recovered the carriage fragment and carefully brought it to the buoy-tender and its crew by hand.
LCMM Executive Director, Art Cohn; LCMM Project Coordinator, Pierre LaRocque; and VBRP diver, Steve Nye, went to work at recovering the remaining pieces of cannon. Art and Pierre performed the difficult lift and Steve filmed the operation. To recover the smaller piece of cannon first reinforce, Art and Pierre deployed a lift bag; larger, lift-pillows were used to recover the cannonís cascabel and its muzzle. Rope rigging secured the cannon pieces to the lift bag and pillows. Once they were securely attached, Pierre slowly inflated them with compressed air from an additional scuba tank that he had secured to his side. Their buoyancy, created by the trapped air, generated the lift to free the pieces from the bayís bottom for the first time in 225 years.
The cannon pieces were brought to the surface, one at a time. Once the lift bags broke the surface, the divers swam the pieces to the buoy-tenderís stern. They were then secured to the winch of the buoy-tenderís hydraulic lift and safely brought on board. As weather conditions worsened, the Coast Guardís support craft moved into position and assisted the divers with towing the heavy muzzle to the buoy-tender and her awaiting crew.
Thanks to members of Burlingtonís U.S. Coast Guard station, the difficult recovery was made without risking the safety of the VBRP team; and their presence nearly negated the challenges presented by the dayís poor weather conditions. Once all were safely aboard, the buoy tender-anchored in the shelter of Valcour Islandís Butterfly Bay and awaited the next-day arrival of the Adirondack.
Continued here: The Raising of the Cannon...
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