National Geographic : 1970 Jul
With him was Frank Scalli, chief test diver for U. S. Divers, manufacturer of the Aqua Lung brand of scuba gear. Frank had brought a truckload of diving equipment and the in gredients for dinner, a crate of lobsters, from his home at Gloucester, Massachusetts. Divers Probe a Mysterious Wreck "We have a surprise for you," said Trooper Hornberger. "A wreck has been discovered off Schuyler Island across the lake. It might be one of Benedict Arnold's gunboats, scut tled after the Battle of Valcour Island. I'm here to invite you to run over in White Mist. Perhaps you'd like to dive with us." With visions of finding historic cannon, I accepted the invitation, and we sailed over to Schuyler next morning. With us were Capt. David Mize of the Air Force and his friend Jim Hays, Plattsburgh scuba divers who had found the wreck. "After the Valcour engagement in 1776," the captain told us, "Arnold's ships were badly damaged. He retreated to Schuyler Island, where he found the gundalows Provi dence and New York so badly hurt they were scuttled. A while ago we went out to look for them, and found this wreck. It might be one of them." We anchored the yawl northwest of the island. The lake water was icy. With my scuba gear I donned a wet suit to keep warm. Swimming to the bottom, Walt, Frank, and I found a mass of slimy timbers. While a swarm of small fishes crowded near, I tugged at what appeared to be a ship's rib, longer than I am tall. It yielded, and I swam it in triumph to the surface (preceding page). Bristling with huge rusty nails, the ugly thing rested on White Mist's stern all the way to Gaspe. Thence it went by car to the Smith sonian Institution in Washington. "An interesting example of wood impreg nated with bituminous dust," Smithsonian expert Mendel Peterson later reported. "Judg ing from a nail with faceted head and chisel point, I'd say you've sent us a rotted rib from a 130-year-old coal barge." Shorn of spars and canvas, White Mist motors out of the last lock of Canal de Cham bly into the Richelieu River. Hull bumpers and careful helmsmanship took her through 22 such locks unscathed. Ahead now lies the St. Lawrence, which will carry the ocean going yawl back to the big waters she was built for (foldout map, pages 3-5). We set the spinnaker and romped with a fair wind into the Richelieu River, dropping the big sail when we came abreast of the Canadian port of entry just north of Rouses Point. With no more than a quick glance at the ship's papers, a customs officer cleared us. To this day the Richelieu-Champlain Hudson route remains an important marine artery, though limited by narrow locks and six- or seven-foot depths. There are also low bridges, so at St. Jean, where the Canal de Chambly begins, a crane plucked out our masts for the second time. Again we enjoyed a quiet journey through pleasant countryside. Occasionally the ditch wound around hillsides, like an aqueduct.