Ghost Fleet Awakened

Lake George's Sunken Bateaux of 1758

By Joseph W. Zarzynski

Subjects: New York/regional, History, Archaeology, Anthropology
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438476728, 284 pages, November 2019

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

1. Early History of Bateaux

2. The Bateau Watercraft

3. Building Techniques

4. Discovery of Lake George’s Sunken Bateaux of 1758

5. The 1950s and Early 1960s: “Rediscovery”

6. Toward Better Management

7. Underwater Archaeology

8. A Renaissance of Interest

9. The “Mortar Bateau”

10. What Lies Beneath: An Inventory

11. Missing Bateau Shipwrecks

12. Lake George’s Baby Whale Submarine

13. Wiawaka Bateaux and the National Register of Historic Places

14. Submerged Heritage Preserves

15. Stabilizing a Bateau Shipwreck Site

16. Students Build Underwater Archaeology Equipment and Replica Bateaux

17. “Raising the Fleet”: An Art/Science Initiative

18. Documentary Filmmaking, Bateaux, and Archaeologists

19. Public Education Programs


Appendix I. “Operation Bateaux” Revisited Twenty-Four Years Later—Part 1
Appendix II. “Operation Bateaux” Revisited Twenty-Four Years Later—Part 2
Appendix III. Insights Gained from a Replica Lake George Bateau
Appendix IV. A List of Some of the Dive Teams, Underwater Archaeology Teams, and Scuba Divers Who Dived Lake George’s Sunken Bateaux of 1758 During Rediscovery and Study

About the Author

Chronicles the history and archaeological study of Lake George, New York’s sunken bateaux of 1758.


In Ghost Fleet Awakened, Joseph W. Zarzynski reveals the untold story of a little-recognized sunken fleet of British warships, bateaux, from the French and Indian War (1755–1763). The story begins more than 250 years ago, when bateaux first plied the waters of Lake George, New York. Zarzynski enlightens readers with a history of these utilitarian vessels, considered the most important vessels that transported armies during eighteenth-century wars in North America, and includes their origins and uses. By infusing the book with underwater archaeology doctrine, Zarzynski shows the nautical significance of these colonial craft.

In the autumn of 1758, the British command at Lake George made a daring decision to deliberately sink two floating batteries (radeaux), some row galleys and whaleboats, a sloop, and 260 bateaux, thereby placing the warships into wet storage and protecting them from marauding French during the coming winter. In 1759, many submerged boats were raised but some were not. Then, in 1960, two divers rediscovered several sunken bateaux, dubbed the "Ghost Fleet. " These shipwrecks were the focus of underwater archaeological investigations that provided archaeologists with opportunities to gain unprecedented insight into eighteenth-century lifeways. Zarzynski explores and explains shipwreck preservation techniques, the creation of shipwreck parks for scuba enthusiasts, and the many multifaceted programs developed by the nonprofit organization Bateaux Below to help protect these finite cultural treasures.

Joseph W. Zarzynski is a maritime archaeologist, registered professional archaeologist, and award-winning documentarian. He is the coauthor (with Peter J. Pepe) of Documentary Filmmaking for Archaeologists and (with Bob Benway) >i>Lake George Shipwrecks and Sunken History, and the author of Champ: Beyond the Legend and Monster Wrecks of Loch Ness and Lake Champlain. He lives in upstate New York.


"…Zarzynski's depth of research and description of the physical characteristics of the boats is a shining addition to the historiography of the Seven Years' War. Zarzynski achieves what he sets out to do: to document how these boats still fascinate us more than 260 years after their sinking. " — H-Net Reviews (H-War)

"Ghost Fleet Awakened … will be of interest to archaeologists interested in the growth of the preservation movement and anyone interested in forming a grass-roots archaeological preservation organization … Zarzynski also offers a powerful argument for the necessity of local involvement in preservation. " — International Journal of Nautical Archaeology

"If you're fascinated by the maritime history of Lake George and especially the versatile, shallow-draft boats known as bateaux, this is your book … The book is filled with numerous photos and illustrations and it's also riveting. " — Albany Times Union

"…a major contribution to the entire field. " — American Archaeology

"…this excellent book … teaches us about the past and how to preserve it for the future. " — Adirondack Daily Enterprise

"Zarzynski offers fascinating new research on bateau shipwrecks through the use of manuscripts, period newspaper accounts, and interviews. It is an outstanding piece of research, explaining the chronological history of cultural resource preservation. No other book provides this level of documentation on the role of bateaux during the wars of the eighteenth century. " — Russell P. Bellico, author of Empires in the Mountains: French and Indian War Campaigns in Forts in the Lake Champlain, Lake George, and Hudson River Corridor

"This is a major contribution to the field of American history, New York State history, underwater archaeology, and cultural resource management. There is no equivalent book that documents this story. " — Timothy J. Runyan, editor of Ships, Seafaring and Society: Essays in Maritime History