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The Sunken 1758 Fleet

Located in Lake George, New York

History of the "Sunken Fleet of 1758"

From 1755 to 1763, Britain and France fought in the French and Indian War. During the autumn of 1758, Lake George was a focal point for this struggle. One type of warship used by both sides in this conflict was the bateau (French for boat).

Bateaux drawing
Bateaux were widely used in the 1700s for moving
troops and supplies (Mark Peckham drawing)

Bateaux had flat bottoms, flaring sides and raked bows and sterns. They usually were propelled by oars and poles and steered by a stern sweep. Bateaux were typically 25 to 35 feet long. Built of pine planks with simple oak frames, bateaux could be produced rapidly and were widely employed in the eighteenth century for moving troops and supplies.

Whenever possible, Colonial armies moved via water to avoid marching through dangerous and roadless wilderness. As many as 900 bateaux were used against French-held Fort Carillon (later named Fort Ticonderoga) in the summer of 1758. Some 260 bateaux reportedly were sunk in Lake George in the autumn of 1758 to seal them under winter ice and prevent their capture or destruction by French forces.

Seven of eight bateaux at the preserve site are part of "The Sunken Fleet of 1758." The eighth bateau, the southernmost one, is a replica built by local school children and teachers. In 1997, the 23-foot replica bateau was sunk near the site to enhance the preserve visit for divers, to test Colonial sinking techniques and to study the deterioration process of a wooden vessel in a freshwater environment.

The seven 1758 bateaux, sometimes referred to as the "Wiawaka Bateaux Cluster," are 25 to 36 feet long and 4 to 5 feet wide. Archaeological research by Bateaux Below, Inc. has documented design features and construction elements typical of mid-18th century bateaux. These warships lie roughly perpendicular to shore over a 450-foot long area, suggesting they were all scuttled at once. Only the bottom planks, the lower part of the ribs, some cleats and garboards remain. Stones, apparently used to help sink them, can be found on the bottom planks.

Additional historical research may reveal why these bateaux were not recovered. They were listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 1992. A historic marker about these shipwrecks was erected on shore. It overlooks the southernmost bateaux and is visible from the mooring buoy area.

Location of "The Sunken Fleet of 1758"

This site is approximately one mile north of Lake George Beach on the east side of the lake.

Special Diving Conditions and Guidelines for "The Sunken Fleet of 1758" Preserve

Depth of Water - 25 to 50 feet
Experience Level - Intermediate

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