J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

Subscribe thru Follow.it


Friday, June 23, 2017

Raise the Spitfire?

Earlier this month the Associated Press reported on the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s proposal to raise, preserve, and display a gunboat that sank in 1776.

The boat is the Spitfire, one of Gen. Benedict Arnold’s fleet during the Battle of Valcour Island. The dispatch says:
The Spitfire was found during a 1997 sonar survey of the lake. Museum divers check on it yearly. Its mast is still erect and the bow cannon still in the firing position. The ammunition and other artifacts from the battle are buried in mud.

For almost 250 years, the Spitfire has been protected by the cold water of the lake. But Cohn said its future is in danger because of the expected arrival in the lake of quagga mussels, an invasive species that has reached the Great Lakes and could potentially destroy metal fastenings that hold the vessel together.
Back in the 1930s another gunboat, the Philadelphia, was pulled up from the lake. The museum made a replica that sails on Lake Champlain today, shown above.

Raising the Spitfire is a huge undertaking. The plan being proposed would take twenty-two years and cost an estimated $44 million. The steps involved:

  • two years of planning at a cost of $1 million.
  • building a facility to house the boat in Burlington, Vermont.
  • bringing the Spitfire to the surface around 2025.
  • preserving the boat by strengthening the cells of the wood with chemicals over fifteen years.
  • building a museum to display the boat near Plattsburgh, New York.

If all goes according to plan, the Spitfire would be ready for its close-up around 2039.

No comments: