As soon as we descended to a depth of 60 feet it got very dark, and at 105 feet we were in complete darkness. We were 4 divers plus the dive master who was guiding us made five divers in the water. Everybody had a strong light. The site is very well marked so there should have been no problems. But, after two minutes into the dive, I could only count two lights in addition to mine. I had no idea what could have happened to the other two divers.
Over the past Labor Day weekend, my dive buddies and I had jumped into the waters of Lake George to dive one of the best wrecks that exist in the Northeast: The oldest intact warship in the United States,theLand Tortoise.
Known around the Lake George simply as the Radeau (French for raft) and located at a depth of 105 feet, the wreck is a seven-sided wooden ship that was sunken in the fall of 1758 during the French and Indian War (1755-63). The ship belonged to the British army, and was sunk purposely together with other ships and with the intention of hiding them from the enemy throughout the winter. The sunken fleet was retrieved over the next spring, but because the Land Tortoise slid to deeper waters in the lake it could not be recovered as expected. It remained there until it was discovered in 1990 by a group of archaeologist members of the Bateaux Below, Inc.
There is a perimeter barrier surrounding and protecting the wreck, and numbered signs that make navigation easy. It is worth mentioning that it is a no-touch wreck according to the guidelines of the Land Tortoise preserve listed in the Department of Environmental Conservation’s web site.
It was by sign number 1 that I noticed that the two divers were missing. I swam closer to the other two divers who were with me and realized that the two missing divers were our guide and one from our group. I asked my buddies, using hand signals, where the other divers were. They replied that the two divers had buddied up and came back up to the surface. Although I was concerned for the divers, I tried to relax a little since we all had experience diving wrecks, and our buddy had ascended with our guide.
As I approached the wreck, I could see that it was really in good condition, and I could imagine being transported into the past. The wreck is intact because the conditions in which it sits: 105 feet of fresh water at around 35º degrees. One can perfectly tell its seven sides and its seven canon ports, which are still in good shape. In addition to the sweep holes, you can even see the rocks that soldiers used to help sink the boat, and they are still in the same position as they were 254 years ago.
After “touring” the wreck, my dive buddy signaled to me that it was time to begin our ascent. I checked my dive computer and signaled back in agreement. We did our required stops on the way up, and returned to present time.
Once back on the surface, I quickly scanned the boat in search of the two missing divers. My worries went away when I saw them on board the boat chatting comfortably with the captain of the boat, then I knew that everything was fine. Our dive buddy’s primary light had failed, and he and our guide decided to buddy up for a safer ascent.
On the boat, we all agreed that the dive was one of the best wrecks in the North East. Not only is the wreck very well preserved, but after you dive it you have a better understanding and perspective of American history. And personally I can’t wait for the next diving season to go back to Lake George and dive the Land Tortoise again.For more information visit:
http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/5076.html