The Wrecks of Lake Champlain

A PADI Distinctive Specialty Course

Gary C. Kessler, MSDT #250556



HorseFerry The PADI Wrecks of Lake Champlain Specialty Diver Course introduces divers to wreck diving in Lake Champlain. It provides a perspective that takes into account the dive environment (cold and dark), local invasive species (zebra mussels), and the history of the individual wrecks. The course will teach divers how to safely dive these wreck sites with an attitude and skill set to both enjoy and preserve them. The course will also teach divers how to safely dive in conditions that are often less than optimal, as well as to appreciate the environmental impact of an invasive species. Finally, divers will learn something about each boat on which they might dive. In short, divers will learn how to appreciate the entire dive experience.

About Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain — the sixth largest fresh water lake in the U.S. — provides a unique set of diving challenges and opportunities. The lake always provides a cold-water dive environment; because of multiple thermoclines, temperatures at depth can be as low as 7°C (45°F) even when the surface temperature is 22°C (72°F). Visibility is another challenge; 9 meters (30') of visibility is a very good day and visibility of 4 meters (14') or less is common. The presence of invasive zebra mussels has had a noticeable impact on underwater structures and often requires divers to wear gloves as protection against cuts.

Yet, a great deal of U.S. maritime history lies on the bottom of Lake Champlain. The Vermont Division of Historic Preservation (VT DHP) and the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) have marked nine wrecks in the lake dating back between 100 and 200 years in age, including the only known specimen of a horse-powered vessel in North America. This course will discuss the lake and these nine wrecks.

Course Goals

  1. Review procedures, equipment, skills, hazards, and planning associated with diving in Lake Champlain, including:

  2. Gain an understanding of the impact of an invasive species -- zebra mussels -- on the lake, including:

  3. Learn the history, regulations, procedures, equipment, skills, hazards, and planning for diving the wrecks, including:

Learning Objectives

By the end of the certification course, students will be able to explain:

  1. Three safety and dive planning considerations associated with cold water diving
  2. Two safety and dive planning considerations associated with diving in a low-visibility environment
  3. When and where Zebra Mussels were first introduced in the U.S.
  4. Three impacts of Zebra Mussels on Lake Champlain
  5. Two things that individuals can do to stop (or slow) the spread of Zebra Mussels
  6. Procedural steps that all divers must take prior to diving any of the wrecks
  7. General surface markings identifying a wreck site and the underwater access to the wrecks
  8. The name, location, size, depth, bottom composition, and brief description of the nine posted wrecks in Lake Champlain
  9. The names of the two wrecks that are considered "sensitive sites" and describe the additional procedural step when diving these sites
  10. The guidelines for penetrating the wrecks and removing artifacts from the sites

Certification Requirements

Course Standards


Individuals interested in taking this course — or PADI instructors interested in teaching this course — should contact Gary at kumquat@garykessler.net or 802-238-8913.



© Gary C. Kessler, 2016-2017