"IROQUOISE PROJECT' Shipwreck Yields Data for Computer Reconstruction
By Dennis and Kathi McCarthy
Three years of work by volunteers for the St. Lawrence River Historical Foundation (SRHF) has yielded a treasure trove of data on what may be the oldest identifiable wreck of a vessel that sailed on the Great Lakes and Upper St. Lawrence River. Working under a permit issued by the New York Education Department, volunteers from the US, Canada, England and France have completed the data recovery stage of the underwater survey on the "Iroquoise Project."
Underwater survey and research in archives has documented the wreck, located in 80 feet of water in the St. Lawrence River between the mainland and Wellsley Island, as the "H.M.S. ANSON," which sank Oct. 23, 1761.
At that time the vessel, sailing under the British flag, was en route to Fort Ontario at Oswego with a cargo of provisions. Originally the ANSON was launched as the French corvette L'IROQUOISE near the present day village of Maitland, Ontario, Canada, on April 9, 1759. The vessel was armed with ten 12-pound cannons and was assigned to cruise the upper St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. L'IROQUOISE was active in the defense of Fort Niagara in 1759 and the Battle of the Thousand Islands in 1760 at the close of the French and Indian War.
The SRHF team used survey methods designed for minimal site disturbance. DSM (Direct Survey Methods), a technique that combines simple tape measurements with proprietary software computer processing was used to produce an accurate mathematical map of the site. The highly accurate DSM technique was developed as a result of a survey of the wreck of the MARY ROSE, the Tudor war ship that sank off Portsmouth England in 1545. During the "Iroquoise Project" it was used in conjunction with photography, computer imaging, sonar scans and visual documentation. Nick Rule, one of DSM's inventors, processed recovered data. The "Iroquoise Project" was the first wreck survey using DSM in which volunteers from two continents worked on the project exclusively via the Internet.
Work by SRHF volunteers Gerry and Joyce Wall of U/W Concepts, Nepean, Ontario, and Kendrick McMahan of Dayton, New Jersey, produced a digital, near photographic image of the full wreck site. This completed image cannot be seen at the site due to low light levels at a depth of eighty feet and the limited, 20-25 foot visibility.
The next phase of the Iroquoise Project will utilize the last three years of work to create a report that will document what remains of the wreck for future generations. Towards this purpose historians and divers, both American, Canadians, British and French have joined in a cooperative effort. Many thanks to volunteers such as Peter Engelbert, Staff Archeologist, Province of Ontario, Canada, Richard Palmer of Syracuse, NY, Arthur Britton Smith of Kingston, Ontario, The Upper St. Lawrence Chapter - Save Our Ships, of Prescott, Ontario, Capt. Alain Demerlaic of Le Havre, France, The Musee of the Marine in Paris, France, officials in the State of New York and many others.
For additional information contact the St. Lawrence River Historical Foundation Inc. by Internet at SRHF@ix.netcom.com or at P.O. Box 96, Cape Vincent, N.Y. 13618.
Fall 1998 pps. 193 & 194