Seneca Lake archaeology survey for 2018 and 2019

Principal investigator:

Art Cohn, Maritime Research Institute Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

The Seneca Lake Survey Team:

Tim Caza, Dennis Gerber, Tom Manley, Angus Warren, Peg Ellsworth, Craig Williams, Mark Peckham, Chris Sabick, Matt Harrison, Rob Parker,              Chris Martin, Tim Downing, Gary Emerson and Kirk House

This Project was supported by:                    

Dr. Christina Reith, New York State Museum 

Daniel Mackay, New York State Historic Preservation Officer      

Brian Strattton, John Callaghan, New York State Canal Corporation

Rob Cassetti, Steve Gibbs, Dan Derusha, the Corning Museum of Glass

And special thanks to the Tripp Foundation and Ted Marks for their support.    Scroll down for more


Seneca Lake 2018 discoveries



Target # 1 (The Frank Bowley Scow)





In 2017 Tim Caza and Dennis Gerber had a meeting with Art Cohn from Vermont in his interest in doing an underwater survey to find the Frank Bowley that was lost in Seneca Lake in 1869. We agreed to do the survey.  Art received a permit from the State of New York for the survey to begin in the 2018 season.  A survey team was put together and a six day survey began in July. The Frank Bowley was located in deep waters of Seneca Lake on the first day of the survey on July 11, 2018.  An open scow of 180 tons, built in 1865. The owners paid $2,000 for the scow in 1868. She set out on the first trip of the season with 220 tons of coal on Seneca Lake with eight boats in tow by the tug A.L. Griffin. It would prove to be her first and last trip. One of the howsers broke and she shipped two of three heavy waves and sunk. The bow was damaged when the vessel struck the lake bottom. She now lies on a steep slope on the bottom of the lake.More


Target #2 (Canal boat)

On the second day of the sonar survey we were forced to a different area of the lake due to bad weather.  In doing so we located this canal boat on July 12, 2018.  The vessel is totally intact with a full cargo of coal aboard. She sets upright on the bottom of the lake with a cabin on her stern.

              Starboard stern of canal boat     More        Video 




Target # 3 (Scow)


This scow was also located on the second day of our survey on July 12, 2018.  She is intact with a cook stove aboard and a cast iron pot on her stern deck.  She sets upright on the bottom of the lake encrusted in mussels. It is very rare to find a scow in such good condition.

Stove on right side of photo, cast iron pot  on deck, tiller in background. More         Video


Target # 4 (Canal boat)


We were doing a sonar survey on Sept. 4, 2018 and at 2:30 am we found this canal boat. She has a horse cabin on the bow with the rope still stretched across the cabin for the horses.  The cabin on the stern was gone, other than that it is intact.  Her cargo is coal, she has a stove in the stern and a large ship anchor hanging on the rail behind the horse cabin.                       Inside the horse cabin.             More     Video


Target # 5 (Sloop?) 


When we did the sonar survey on Sept. 4, 2018 we also found what appears to be a sloop in deep waters of Seneca Lake.  This vessel has a full cabin on the stern and it appeared to have had a cabin on the bow at one time. Really nice looking wreck and in great shape.  She sets on a hard bottom upright and her cargo is coal.

More     Video



Target # 9 (Bullhead canal boat)


After videoing targets 2 and 3 it was getting dark, so we decided to video target #9 before calling it a night.  Target #9 has all the characteristics of a Bullhead Canal Boat. The stern of the vessel is pulled apart, it probably struck the bottom of the lake stern first. The cargo is coal and it is mostly intact with the cabin missing.

Bow of Bullhead Canal Boat.  More   Video

Seneca Lake 2019 discoveries



Target # 10 (Early Erie-class canal boat)



We came across this canal boat in July of 2019.  It is much smaller than all the other canal boats we have located.  It is believed to be one of the earlier style class canal boats.  She was carrying a cargo of coal and appears to have sunk bow first.  When we explored this site, we noted that all the cargo of coal had shifted from the stern to the bow, then spilling over her bow when she struck the bottom of the lake.


Target # 11 (Log Raft)



The remains of this log raft was a unique discovery in July of 2019.  Many of the logs are still visible that are not buried in the sediment of the lake.  They remain today in very deep waters of Seneca Lake


This target is a very large rectangular style canal boat.  It has an intact cabin in the stern and a horse stall on the foredeck.  She is fitted with iron cleats and two large cargo hatches.  The starboard side is split away from the main deck. It is full of coal and sets upright on the bottom of the lake. It is one of the largest canal boats in the lake.


Target #13 (An enlarged Erie-class canal boat)




This canal boat appears to have sunk stern first due to the damage in that area.  She has a cook stove where the cabin would have been along with other artifacts around that area.  All of the wood posts along her sides would have supported a roof to cover the entire vessel to protect perishables.  This does account for no cargo being found aboard this wreck. The roof most likely floated away when she went to the bottom of the lake.  The construction of the sides of this canal boat are much different than the other canal boats we have located. The entire vessel is open with no walkways along the sides.


Target # 14





Target # 14 is a unknown type of shipwreck discovered in July of 2019 in deep waters of Seneca Lake. It has not been explored at this time.


Target # 15 (Canal Boat)

            Shadow indicates cabin in the stern and cabin in the bow.




Target # 15 appears to be a totally intact canal boat with cabins in the stern and on the bow. Verified with sonar imaging in deep waters of the lake.  It has not been explored at this time.



Target # 16  (Early Erie-class canal boat)



This vessel is totally intact.  It has a cabin in the stern with a cook stove, a set of steps, and the stovepipe still visible inside.  As well as a bilge pump on her deck.  She has a horse stall on the foredeck.  The vessel has one large cargo hatch with bitts along her side.  The only visible damage is that the bulkhead between the horse stall and the cargo hatch blew out when the cargo shifted as she sunk.  This target was discovered in 2019 while returning to another target.


Target # 17



Target # 17 is a car found in Seneca Lake during the 2019 Survey.




Stay tuned for Seneca Lake

2021 discoveries


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