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Destination Recreation: Lake Champlain Maritime Museum - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Destination Recreation: Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

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VERGENNES, Vt. -

Erick Tichonuk developed an interest in Lake Champlain long ago.

"I started diving on Lake Champlain when I was 14 years old. I had no idea of the history that was beneath," he says.

Soon that would change.

"I encountered an 88-foot schooner on the bottom of Lake Champlain, wooden and filled with marble," he says.

After that, Tichonuk knew that he wanted the lake and its history to be a huge part of his life. Now, he is the Executive Director at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes.

"It was established on the basis of the fact that Lake Champlain is the home to hundreds of shipwrecks," he says.

The information from these shipwrecks is a focal point of the museum.

"We have a team of underwater archaeologists who go down and study those vessels. There's a tremendous amount of research to be done on these. We can learn everything from how the ship was constructed and what the chronology of the ship building was to what the lives of those individuals was like," he says.

They've also learned that some ships were propelled in an unusual way.

You may not know this but back in the early 1800s, some ferries were actually driven by horses on Lake Champlain. And here at the museum there is an exhibit that shows this off. You can take a few steps and see that the propeller moves. That's what got the boats going).

The artifacts housed in the museum undergo a rigorous conservation process.

Some are preserved better than others, like a hand truck from around 1900.

"This portion over here, which is very well preserved, very little pitting on the metal, wood is still in very good integrity, this was buried in the mud," says Tichonuk. "While we look at the other side of the hand truck and there's a distinct difference, the metal has deteriorated significantly."

The shipwrecks themselves are not on display, but some have been reconstructed. One of the popular replicas is the Philadelphia, one of Benedict Arnold's gun ships.

Some children were out enjoying it.

Other programs offer a more hands-on experience. Enter Champlain Discovery.

"These teenagers are here for three weeks, each one of them building their own kayak and then they're actually going to take it on Lake Champlain," Tichonuk says.

Malcolm Donnovan-Cook heard about the program at school.

"It really appealed to me because I'm on the Vergennes rowing team.," he says.

He and the rest of the students have been busy building their kayaks and can't wait to hit the water. He's learned some things along the way.

"Honestly as cheesy as it sounds is teamwork because you have to work as a team," he says.

Whether you choose to walk through the museum, or get more involved, Tichonuk knows this:

"Stepping aboard a boat just as it would have been is an experience not to be forgotten," he says.

Admission to the museum is $10 for adults. If you'd like more information on how to get involved in a program like Champlain Discovery, visit www.lcmm.org


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