The Phoenix

The Phoenix, built by the Lake Champlain Steamboat Company and launched in 1815, was the second commercial steamboat on Lake Champlain. The steamer, commanded by Captain Jehaziel Sherman, maintained a regular schedule between Whitehall, NY and St. Johns, Quebec, with stops at other Lake ports along the route.

At 11:00 P.M. on September 4, 1819, the Phoenix left Burlington for Plattsburgh, NY, with 46 passengers and crew, under the command of Captain Sherman's son, Richard. An unusual glow in the amidships galley provided the first warning that a fire had broken out on board, but the discovery was made too late to save the Phoenix. The passengers were roused from their cabins and loaded into two small boats. Unfortunately, in the confusion, a dozen people (including the captain) were left to fend for themselves on the burning ship. Sherman and several others were rescued from the Lake in the morning but six others were not so lucky and perished in the Lake's cold, dark waters. The cause of the fire was said to have been a candle carelessly left burning in the pantry: however, circumstantial evidence suggests that the fire may have been intentionally set by competing lake sailing interests.


Photo Courtesy: Lake Champlain Maritime Museum Collection, by Ernest Haas

Features of Interest:

  • Size of wreck: 146' long, 27' wide
  • The fire-charred framing ends and massive hull are clearly visible.
  • The bow is prominent, jutting 15' off the bottom.
  • The rudder hardware is visible at the stern.The iron rods which held the engines and boilers are visible.Diving Suggestions:

Experience level: Advanced

  • Depth of water: 60' (bow) - 110' (stern)
  • The anchor pad to the Preserve buoy rests at approximately 50' depth.
  • The depth and location on the open lake requires serious dive planning.
  • Monitor your depth and air and watch for changing weather.
  • Underwater lights are necessary.

Location:

  • On the northern face of Colchester Shoal reef. The stern section of the Phoenix is located in deep water.
  • The Phoenix is a deep dive. Watch your depth and time. Monitor your air.

Contact Info

Jess Robinson, State Archaeologist
802-272-2509

One National Life Drive
Deane C. Davis Building, 6th Floor
Motpelier, VT  05620-0501

Archaeology Heritage Center
802-479-1928

60 Washington Street
Barre, VT  05641