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Learn More About Burlington Bay Horse Ferry

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The Burlington Bay Horse Ferry is a shipwreck in Lake Champlain off the coast of Burlington, Vermont, USA. It is the only known example of a turntable horse ferry, a type of ship that was common on American waterways in the mid-nineteenth century.

According to wreckage analysis, the ferry was 62 feet 5 inches (19.02 m) long and had a beam of 15 feet 3 inches (4.65 m). It stood 4 feet 8 inches (1.42 m) tall and had a hold depth of 3 feet 11 inches (1.19 m). The hull was double-ended, with a straight sternpost and a curved stempost. Barnabas Langdon of Whitehall, New York, patented its propulsion mechanism in 1819. A gearing system connected a central turntable mounted below the main deck to a sidewheel. Horses walked on the turntable, causing the sidewheel to rotate, allowing them to move forward through the water.

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During a side-scan sonar survey of Burlington Bay in 1983, the remains of the horse ferry were discovered. Several investigations were conducted throughout the 1980s, including a National Geographic expedition that was published in 1988. Divers visited the site between 1989 and 1992, excavating test areas to document the structure of the vessel and its propulsion mechanism. The ferry’s forward third is missing, though there is evidence that it was still attached when the ferry sank or was scuttled.

Divers Info

Lies at 50 feet depth.

Stay off the bottom to avoid low visibility. Avoid making contact with the fragile shipwreck, and do not rely on any part of the vessel to support your weight.

It’s about two-thirds of the way northwest from the north end of the Burlington breakwater to Lone Rock Point.

The wreck has been designated a Vermont State Historic Site and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

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