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Guest Contributors...             Edwin R. Scollon

Diving Lake Champlain...
The Valcour Bay Research Project-VI (c)

SURVEY
DOCUMENTATION

Fort Ticonderoga’s curator, Chris Fox, begins a detailed sketch of one of the cannon fragments, inventoried as article 01-03.

A single diver can conduct a comprehensive survey with the system that the VBRP has developed and implemented.  However, safety and efficiency considerations necessitate at least a two-man team.  Each member of this team has separate tasks and responsibilities.  The surveyor mans the metal detector and conducts the survey.  He searches the grid for metallic anomalies - indications that metals, not normally found in the sediments, are present.  It’s his job to ensure that the metal detector is working properly and that his search of the grid is systematic and thorough.  He sets the pace of the team.  The recorder assists the surveyor with advancing their search line as the survey progresses.  He’s responsible for accurately recording the locations of any metallic anomalies that the surveyor may encounter.  He’s also responsible for completing a survey log at the end of their dive.

The survey is slow and methodical.  In order to maintain their working visibility, the divers must always make controlled, deliberate movements and minimize any disturbance of the lakebed.  They must be continually conscious of their buoyancy control and of the force and direction of their kicks.  These considerations can present a challenge to even the most-experienced divers, especially when coupled with the use of metal detectors, the movements of lines, and the coordination of the team’s efforts. 

New survey members are often put through “dry runs” of the survey on land.  There, each team can discuss and clearly understand the tasks each member will be performing during their survey - A "dry run" was performed on land before implemented in the bay. Photo: LCMM collectionsomething that isn’t possible in an underwater environment, without the aid of expensive communication devices.  They practice the survey pattern until it becomes second nature, allowing them to concentrate on their buoyancy and metal detection once they perform the actual survey.

A "dry run" in progress.
Photo: LCMM collection

The team sets up and follows their search pattern along the system of posts and lines that were discussed and illustrated on the previous page.  The surveyor swims along a measuring tape that’s strung between corresponding posts on each side of the grid.  We refer to this measuring tape as the “transect tape”.  The tape doubles as a visual guide for the surveyor and as a method for the recorder to precisely record anomaly locations.

The team doesn’t immediately investigate the source of any metal detector “hits”.  To do so would disturb the sediment, reduce their visibility and hamper the continuation of their When the metal detector indicates the presence of a metallic object, the surveyor marks the location with an anomaly post.survey.  Instead, the surveyor carefully imbeds a small PVC post, or “anomaly post”, into the sediment nearby.  Each anomaly post has its own unique letter designation.  The post designations allow the divers to differentiate between numerous anomaly sites.  The recorder records both the position of the anomaly and the letter designation of its anomaly post, before the search continues.  The anomaly post permits the divers to advance the transect tape, proceed with the survey, and later relocate any anomalies that they had encountered.  The team investigates the anomalies after they have concluded their metal detection and usually before leaving the site for the day. 

Each anomaly is investigated by hand.    A survey diver will carefully attempt to determine what the object is by feel.  If he can, he records a short description of the object and doesn’t disturb it any further.  If you can imagine sticking your hand in a deep vat of cold, thick oatmeal, then you can imagine what it’s like for the survey divers to reach into the bay’s sediment.

From this preliminary draft, Chris will draw an image of the artifact, to scale.Objects that can’t be identified by feel are carefully removed from the sediment for the divers to view.  The diver will record his observations and may make underwater sketches or obtain underwater photographs.  Once this is completed, the object is returned to where it was found.  It’s best for the artifacts to remain in their original settings until monies are secured for their conservation and display.

Just about any metal object will return the electromagnetic pulses sent by the detector’s coil and indicate a metallic anomaly.  Valcour Bay is relatively clean but as you might have already guessed, we also encounter many modern artifacts.  “Pull-tops” from soda cans might seem like an artifact to some of our younger divers, but they’re not exactly what we’re looking for.  These “artifacts” and other modern debris are removed from the site and discarded. In the event that we may return to a grid for further survey, we’ll save ourselves the time of rediscovering them. A beneficial by-product of the survey is the clean up of the bay.

LCMM diver, Pierre LaRocque, completes his duties as the survey’s recorder.The recorder completes a daily survey log at the dive’s end.  In addition to completing other pertinent information, he transcribes the data he recorded at depth.  The tasks the divers performed, anomaly locations, and the results of the diver’s investigations become part of a permanent record.  In the event that several teams participate during a day of survey, each team’s survey log becomes an attachment to a consolidated report.

Encountered artifacts are also listed in an artifact inventory log.  Each artifact is assigned a particular inventory number.  This designation is accompanied by a description of the object and its location within the site.   It’s from this log that the VBRP’s master survey map is drawn.  

The logs and master survey map are compiled at the conclusion of each survey year. They are presented to New York State Museum officials, along with an annual report. Copies of all the logs, maps and reports are also stored at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.

The survey and its documentation are meticulous and time-consuming, but these are necessary elements in maintaining the historical perspective of the bay’s artifacts.  It’s this preservation of historical data that is the primary concern and standard of the state and federal agencies that oversee the project.  Over the past few years, the research team has compiled an extensive base of data that LCMM has coupled with grant requests and proposals for the objects’ recovery, conservation, interpretation and display.

Click on the thumbnail images to see a large photo.
 

Some objects are too complex or intricate to adequately identify by hand.  Here, two newly discovered cannon fragments were brought above the silt and suspended upon a wooden pallet. The pallet offers a working platform in which Chris can work from. From this preliminary draft, Chris will draw an image of the artifact, to scale. Chris Fox’s scale drawing of artifact 01-03, inked by Adam Loven and now part of LCMM Collections.
Chris Fox’s scale drawing of artifact 01-03, inked by Adam Loven and now part of LCMM Collections.
Some objects are too complex or intricate to adequately identify by hand.  Here, two newly discovered cannon fragments were brought above the silt and suspended upon a wooden pallet. Fort Ticonderoga’s curator, Chris Fox, begins a detailed sketch of one of the cannon fragments, inventoried as article 01-03. The pallet offers a working platform in which Chris can work from. From this preliminary draft, Chris will draw an image of the artifact, to scale.
The transect tape serves as a visual reference for the surveyor to follow. As the surveyor traverses the grid he slowly moves the detectors coil to each side of the transect tape.  When the metal detector indicates the presence of a metallic object, the surveyor marks the location with an anomaly post. Here the recorder records the anomaly’s location and its anomaly post’s designation on the Mylar.
The transect tape serves as a visual reference for the surveyor to follow. As the surveyor traverses the grid he slowly moves the detectors coil to each side of the transect tape.  When the metal detector indicates the presence of a metallic object, the surveyor marks the location with an anomaly post. Here the recorder records the anomaly’s location and its anomaly post’s designation on the Mylar.
Here a surveyor runs the transect tape in his metal detector survey.
Here a surveyor runs the transect tape in his metal detector survey.
Once their metal detection survey is complete, a survey diver carefully attempts to identify the source of the metallic anomaly.
Once their metal detection survey is complete, a survey diver carefully attempts to identify the source of the metallic anomaly.
Each anomaly post is marked with a letter designation.  The designation and the anomalies location are recorded on a waterproof sheet of Mylar.
Each anomaly post is marked with a letter designation.  The designation and the anomalies location are recorded on a waterproof sheet of Mylar.
LCMM diver, Pierre LaRocque, completes his duties as the survey’s recorder.
LCMM diver, Pierre LaRocque, completes his duties as the survey’s recorder.
Rob Wilczynski completes his dive notations as fellow LCMM diver, Adam Kane, takes a breather. LCMM divers, Pierre LaRocque and Adam Kane, discuss the tasks they’ve completed and their survey logs. A "dry run" was performed on land before implemented in the bay. Photo: LCMM collection Champlain Dive Shop owner and VBRP volunteer, Doug Jones, prepares to capture video documentation of the divers performing the survey.
Rob Wilczynski completes his dive notations as fellow LCMM diver, Adam Kane, takes a breather. LCMM divers, Pierre LaRocque and Adam Kane, discuss the tasks they’ve completed and their survey logs. A "dry run" was performed on land before implemented in the bay. Photo: LCMM collection. Champlain Dive Shop owner and VBRP volunteer, Doug Jones, prepares to capture video documentation of the divers performing the survey.

Continued here: Other Artifacts Discovered...

Back to the VBRP HOME PAGE

Other links about Valcour Island and the Battle of Valcour within The Lake Champlain and Lake George Historical Site

The Battle of Lake Champlain:

The American Revolution on Lake Champlain

Download a copy of The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum's Official VBRP Cannon Raising Commemoration Program- Click HERE.

Also of interest: LCMM's Valcour Island Battlefield Preservation

IMPORTANT NOTE: Artifacts on the bottom of the lake are the property of the People of the States of New York and/or Vermont by law. It is illegal to remove or damage them under State Law(s) without the appropriate clearances and permits. Removing them and transferring them across state lines violates Federal law & makes one liable to Federal prosecution.

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