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Seneca Lake underwater exploration talks in September

  • / Updated:
  • Concetta Durso 

Nautical archaeologist Art Cohn will report on his continuing underwater explorations of Seneca Lake at illustrated talks in Hammondsport and Watkins Glen in late September.

Cohn, an affiliated scholar of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University, is the principal investigator of the Seneca Lake Survey Project, which launched in 2018. He and his crew continued their work on the lake this summer. The Finger Lakes Boating Museum in Hammondsport is one of the key project sponsors.

This image shows the hull of a canal-era boat discovered 220 feet underwater by the Seneca Lake Survey Project.

“The Legacy of the Erie Canal: A New Survey of Seneca Lake Reveals its Geological History and a Treasure Trove of Canal-era Shipwrecks” will be presented on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 6:30 p.m. at the Watkins Glen Elementary School auditorium, 612 S. Decatur St. Cohn will present the same talk on Thursday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m. at the Boating Museum, 8231 Pleasant Valley Road.

Both talks are free and open to all. The talks are sponsored by the Boating Museum, the Schuyler County Historical Society, America’s Boating Club-Finger Lakes Chapter, Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce and the Watkins Glen Yacht Club.

Cohn has for 40 years located, documented and advocated for the public value of submerged cultural resources, aka “shipwrecks.” In his talk he will report on the Survey Project’s research findings to date. He also will give an overview of Seneca Lake and its significant role in commercial and passenger transportation in the 1800s.

The Erie Canal, New York State’s famous inland navigation highway, officially opened to vessel traffic in the fall of 1825. During each navigation season, thousands of canal boats traveled the new canal and its feeder canals.

“The new, highly engineered navigation corridor created an all-water network that connected New York City to Buffalo and the Great Lakes. From the moment it opened, the Erie Canal was successful beyond all its proponents’ expectations, and for the next 100 years the canal system prospered,” Cohn says.

“What is little-remembered is that by the mid-19th century, Seneca Lake had become a significant link in the inland transportation system and a connection hub to three early canals. The Seneca Lake underwater survey was initiated to determine what of that historic legacy might still be contained beneath the surface,” Cohn says.

The Seneca Lake Survey Project is a collaboration of the Finger Lakes Boating Museum, the New York State Museum, the New York State Canal Corporation and the New York State Power Authority, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University, Casella Waste Management Systems, the Canal Society of New York State, the Erie Canal Heritage Fund, the Romulus Historical Society, Seneca Lake Resorts at Sampson State Park, Stivers Marina, the Tripp Foundation and Ted Marks, the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development and the Watkins Glen Yacht Club.

For more information, contact the Finger Lakes Boating Museum at (607) 569-2222 or the Schuyler County Historical Society at (607) 535-9741.