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Shipwrecks - ROV - Sonar - Projects
ROV Ready To Dive In Lake Ontario
Lake Ontario Shipwreck - Shannon
ROV Ready To Dive In Lake Ontario
Lake Ontario Shipwreck - Farmer's Daughter
Found by: Dan Scoville & Chris Koberstein - July 2012
Location: Off Oswego, NY
Lost and Forgotten - Summer 2012
The 2012 shipwreck search season was off to a good start, winds were calm and the lake was flat. Dan Scoville and Chris Koberstein were on Lake Ontario miles off Oswego, NY in Chris Koberstein's boat. On deck, 2000ft of cable had been paid out into the cold depths with a heavily weighted sonar fish on the end of it. Data from the fish streamed up the cable and onto the computer screen where Dan and Chris scrutinized every blotch hoping that they could scare up a shipwreck out of the random patterns that slowly scrolled down the screen. The target of our search was the steamer Roberval that sunk in a storm on the evening of September 25th 1916. This was the 2nd year of searching for the missing steamer and confidence was high that success was close at hand.
Early in the trip Chris steered the boat directly over a large target that was standing about 20ft tall on the bottom of the lake. The size of this target gave us high hopes that we may have found the Roberval. However, after subsequent passes with the sonar set on high frequency no superstructure was seen and hopes of the target being the Roberval sank quickly. Over the days that followed some small targets scrolled slowly down the sonar screen. "Its airplane parts", Chris would say jokingly, making reference to the still missing B24 bomber lost in Lake Ontario back in February 18th 1944 and as yet never found. These targets were far too small to be the ship of interest but they broke the monotony and we passed the time with endless speculation.
A few days later another target rolled down the computer screen. This target was too small to be the Roberval, too big to be airplane parts and to the experienced eye it had the unmistakable pattern of two standing masts. We had found a small schooner!
Spirits were high, Chris swung the boat around and we slowly vectored in to make a high frequency sonar run on the target. In order to get a high frequency image the sonar must be towed to within about 65 ft of the shipwreck. This is no trivial matter when you consider that the sonar is some 500 feet below and well over 1500ft behind the boat. Factor in the boat is never still, the wind and current are constantly pushing you off course and that if you hit the wreck with the sonar fish you are likely to lose tens of thousands of dollars in equipment, one can imagine the tense moments as you stare at the sonar screen in the run up to the wrecks position.
After a few hours we had our image clearly showing an intact schooner with two standing masts. We decided that we would come back later with the ROV, for now our mission was to cover as much lake bottom as we could in hopes that the Roberval might be a close neighbor of our new schooner.
A few nights later we took a break from searching to explore the new schooner. After a short boat ride Chris pulled the throttle back into neutral and the boat drifted quietly over the exact spot that the schooner disappeared some unknown years before.
The ROV was already on the back deck nearly ready for its decent into history and the 1st step of unlocking the mystery ships identity. After several minutes of decent a muddy bottom dotted with quagga mussels greeted the ROV. The ROV’s sector scanning sonar acoustically lit up the wreck a few hundred feet away and Dan steered the ROV towards the ship.
As the ROV approached the 1st thing that came into view was one of the booms lying perpendicular to the deck and extending off the starboard side until it disappeared into the mud. As Dan turned the ROV in the direction of the boom, the ROV lights reflected off the starboard bow revealing a small but beautifully preserved schooner. Immediately noticeable on the bow were the starboard anchor slung over the rail, the ship’s windlass and the bow sprit chains connecting it back to the ship’s bow. Under the bow sprit is an understated bow stem that reaches out as if to point the way.
Swinging the ROV over the deck several pulley blocks lie about just proud of the mud and quagga mussels. The forward mast stands about a foot behind the windlass with its lower boom still attached. The hatch for the forward hold sits just behind the mast. The forward hatch cover is gone likely blown off by the air inside the hold rushing out as the ship sank. Flying the ROV over to the hatch and looking in revealed an uncommon site for a ship of this age.
The forward hold is not completely filled with mud. The top 3 or 4 feet of the hold is empty, then the mud starts but some cargo can be seen sticking though the mud. It is difficult to make out what the cargo is but it does not appear a bulk cargo such as corn, coal, or feldspar so commonly found in lost schooners. This cargo appears to have some shape to it and looks like it is possibly stacked rather than indiscriminately shoveled into the hold.
Continuing aft we find that the long since rotted away rigging has the left spars across the deck in random fashion. The aft mast still stands despite the rows of empty deadeyes on the adjacent rails. Behind the aft mast stands the ship’s bilge pump and the rear hold. The rear hatch cover is still in place but some of its boards were blown off during the sinking. Flying the ROV up to the rear hatch and peering in though one of the missing boards reveals two wooden barrels sticking out of the mud in the hold.
Just behind the aft hatch cover is a small cabin. The cabin’s companion way is open but looking inside reveals nothing but a cabin filled with silt. The only thing that is noteworthy is a small window in the back of the cabin wall that looks out towards the stern. Between the cabin and the stern rail sits the ships tiller hard over to starboard and a spare mast lies along the starboard rail. The life boat davits hang empty off the stern leaving us to wonder if the ship’s crew made a hasty escaped in the dingy before their ship succumbed to the lake.
The Farmers Daughter was built in 1816 at Sandy Creek, NY. Being a very early ship plying the waters of lake Ontario there is little information about this ship. What I have found is listed on this web page.
Daivd Swayze's Database
The first reference I found related to the Farmers Daughter came from Daivd Swayze's online database of shipwrecks. While searching the database I found that the Farmers Daughter has the closest dimensions to the Oswego mystery wreck of any wreck in the data base lost in Lake Ontario. Base on the information found in the database I started looking for any other information that I could find on the wreck.
Most of the newspaper articles listed on this page are of the comings and goings of the Farmer's Daughter in and out of ports along Lake Ontario. These articles show the area of the lake that this ship frequented and the kinds of cargo that it carried.
A search of enrollment documents for the Farmers Daughter turned up 10 enrollments from the date starting in 1817 and ending 1829. Based on this one might assume that the Farmers Daughter sunk no earlier than 1829.
Below is a table listing the features that have been obtained from the data on this page as well as the ROV footage of the Oswego mystry shipwreck. The source of the information is given. The data below makes a good case for the Oswego Mystery wreck being the Farmers Daughter but I think it is still missing one piece of data.
What is needed is a single newspaper article that will connect the sinking of the schooner Farmer's Daughter and the Oswego mystery wreck. An article that gives some details about where the Farmers Daughter sank, what cargo was on board at the time, what caused the ship to go down or what happened to the crew. To date this article has not been found so for the time being the name Farmer's Daughter can not be applied to the Oswego Mystery wreck.
The Discovery Team
Dan Scoville is an experienced cave and technical diver. In 2005, Dan led the development of an underwater remote operated vehicle (ROV) with a team of college seniors from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He is currently a project manager and electrical engineer for Oceaneering International in Houston, TX
Chris Koberstein is an experienced cave, technical and rebreather diver. Chris uses sophisticated rebreather diving equipment to explore depths to over 300 feet. Chris works as an aviation maintenance technician with Air Canada.
Dan Scoville - cell 1-832-423-6318
Chris Koberstein – home 1-450-458-3590 cell 1-514-236-0824
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