Underwater research project preserves Seneca Lake shipwrecks, history

New York News

SENECA LAKE, N.Y. (WETM) — On Friday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the Seneca Lake Archaeological and Bathymetric Survey Project. It’s an underwater exploration taking place on Seneca Lake that aims to preserve the history of New York’s Canals.

The project will use state-of-the-art equipment to capture never-before-seen images of intact Canal shipwrecks from the early 19th Century in the deepest waters of the lake. The discoveries made during this exploration will enhance future curriculum and educational material for students learning about the iconic Erie Canal and the State’s Canal system.

In addition, the bathymetric survey will map the underwater terrain while collecting information on water quality and Seneca Lake’s ecosystem. 

“The storied history of New York State is intrinsically tied to the Erie Canal, and we have a duty to not only preserve that history, but to make it real for all New Yorkers,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The technology being used on Seneca Lake allows us to see and better understand what lies within the lake’s depths, and through these expeditions, we’re adding to the state’s historical record. This project will further cement the Empire State’s far-reaching legacy while educating generations to come.”

The underwater research project is a collaboration between the New York Power Authority, New York State Canal Corporation, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historical Preservation, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Museum, Finger Lakes Boating Museum, the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Middlebury College, and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said, “We are merging historical and technological achievements to bring the story of a New York State gem, the Erie Canal, to life. Not only will the history we uncover help us build a deeper bond with the bold and audacious legacy of our state, but it will also further aid in our mission for a greener tomorrow—protecting our state’s environmental interests and helping us better understand our local ecosystems.”

Launching from the marina at Sampson State Park, the research team is working in Seneca Lake this summer with newly acquired deep-water Remote Operated Vehicle technology, which enables the capture of high-resolution imaging of a collection of intact Canal shipwrecks in the deepest regions of Seneca Lake. Earlier expeditions in 2018 and 2019, previously uncovered the remains of up to 16 Canal boats from the early 19th century—including what is believed to be the first-ever identified intact remains of a Canal packet boat dating back to the early 1800s.

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