200-year-old wheels from oldest paddle steamship found in Vermont

Salvagers in Vermont have uncovered paddle wheels from a steamship that sank more than two centuries ago.

Built in 1815, the SS Phoenix was 146 feet long and is the oldest known example of a paddle steamer in the world. 

The wheels were found last month about a mile from the ship's hull, which has become a popular site for scuba divers. 

The Phoenix caught fire while ferrying passengers across Lake Champlain in 1819, leading to the deaths of a half-dozen people. 

Some say a crew member was careless with a candle, which sparked the blaze, while others suspect it may have been sabotaged.  

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Gary Lefebvre found the intact paddle wheels of the SS Phoenix, a sidewheel steamship that caught fire and sank in 1819

Gary Lefebvre found the intact paddle wheels of the SS Phoenix, a sidewheel steamship that caught fire and sank in 1819

On August 28, Gary Lefebvre and his wife, Ellen, headed out onto Lake Champlain to investigate some of the targets they had spotted on their radar.

Using a camera on their remote diving vehicle, they spotted an intact wheel nestled in the lakebed.

The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum confirmed the wheel was from the Phoenix, a wooden-frame sidewheel steamship that ferried people and cargo between New York, Vermont and what is now Quebec, Canada.

Built in 1815, the Phoenix measured 146 feet long and 27 feet wide, and was powered by both steam and sail.

At the request of the museum, Lefebvre returned to the lake five days after his initially discovery and found a second paddle wheel about 100 yards away

At the request of the museum, Lefebvre returned to the lake five days after his initially discovery and found a second paddle wheel about 100 yards away 

According to the museum, the steamboat had separate cabins for gentlemen and ladies, as well as a barber shop, downstairs 'saloon' and smoking lounge.

In 1817, the Phoenix carried then-President James Monroe from Burlington, Vermont to Plattsburgh, New York.

Built in 1815, the Phoenix measured 146 feet long and 27 feet wide, and was powered by both steam and sail. She had separate cabins for gentlemen and ladies, as well as a barber shop, smoking lounge and downstairs saloon

Built in 1815, the Phoenix measured 146 feet long and 27 feet wide, and was powered by both steam and sail. She had separate cabins for gentlemen and ladies, as well as a barber shop, smoking lounge and downstairs saloon

The phoenix ferried people and cargo between New York, Vermont and what is now Quebec, Canada. In 1817, the Phoenix carried President James Monroe from Burlington, Vermont to Plattsburgh, New York

The phoenix ferried people and cargo between New York, Vermont and what is now Quebec, Canada. In 1817, the Phoenix carried President James Monroe from Burlington, Vermont to Plattsburgh, New York

Two years later, on September 4, 1819, a fire broke out and all 46 passengers and crew members were forced to abandoned ship.    

While most were put on lifeboats, about a dozen people - including Captain Richard Sherman -  were left behind when the last boat was sent out prematurely.

'The boats were down, and the captain and his men held shrieking women and children in their arms, when the helm gave way, and the vessel, turning from the wind, flew backwards, whirling round and round from the shore,' Fanny Wright wrote in an 1821 account of the disaster. 

A fire broke out on September 4, 1819, forcing all 46 passengers and crew members  to abandoned ship. Most were put on lifeboats but six people ultimately lost their lives

A fire broke out on September 4, 1819, forcing all 46 passengers and crew members  to abandoned ship. Most were put on lifeboats but six people ultimately lost their lives

'None could approach the engine; its fury, however, soon spent itself, and left the flaming wreck to the mercy of only the winds and waves.'

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