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Bob Benway and Sam Bowser prepare work for the underwater exhibit.

Elinor Mossup drawing while snorkeling in Lake George.

Raising The Fleet
August 25 to September 10, 2009.  Opening Reception Friday, August 28, 5 - 8 pm.
Artist: Elinor Mossop
Science Consultant: Dr. Samuel Bowser, Biologist
Archaeological Partner: Bateaux Below, Inc.

Institutional Supporters of the Exhibit (listed in alphabetical order): Bateaux Below, Inc., Lake George Arts Project, Miller Mechanical Services, the Museum of Underwater Archaeology (an Internet museum affiliated with the University of Rhode Island), The National Science Foundation*, Pepe Productions, and Wiawaka Holiday House.

Some brief historical background is needed to help explain the exhibit.  In the autumn of 1758, British and provincial troops at Lake George in the colony of New York deliberately sank much of their squadron: a sloop, two radeaux (floating gun batteries), 260 bateaux, and other warships.  This drastic step was necessary, since the British forces had no fortress at the lake to protect their fleet over the winter of 1758-1759; Fort William Henry had been destroyed the previous year.  The "cold storage" sinking of the vessels in shallow water protected the watercraft from French raids over the winter months.  As determined from the archaeological record, as many as 75% of the sunken boats were raised by the British and provincials in 1759 and subsequently used in the successful Amherst campaign that year.  Those not recovered, submerged remnants of "The Sunken Fleet of 1758," now offer underwater archaeologists an unparalleled opportunity to study French & Indian War (1755-1763) shipwrecks. 

In 2008, a unique art/science collaborative project was conducted, with the submerged cultural resources of “The Sunken Fleet of 1758” as the focal point.  Biologist Sam Bowser and scientific divers with Bateaux Below, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation that studies Lake George shipwrecks, collected micro-scale single-celled organisms called testate amoebae from the lake sediment adjacent to the bateaux.  Because amoebae simply “split in two” when they reproduce, they are essentially immortal. One could argue, therefore, that the amoebae inhabiting the sunken bateaux in 1758 are still alive today! Metaphorically, they serve as our portal to the past.

Artwork based on "The Sunken Fleet of 1758" shipwrecks was scanned and then reduced to a miniature scale. Using micro-lithographic methods, these images were then transformed into 3-dimensional surfaces. Testate amoebae were released onto these surfaces and allowed to interact with the archaeological artwork.  Dr. Bowser and science artist Elinor Mossop examined these interactions using microscopy methods.  Ms. Mossop interpreted the creatures’ exploratory movements and created a series of cutting edge drawings and paintings that show the micro fauna encountering and reoccupying "The Sunken Fleet of 1758."  Her approach is based on a previous art/science collaboration between Bowser and New Zealand artist Claire Beynon.

This art/science exhibit commemorates the 250th anniversary of the British forces at Lake George "raising the fleet" in 1759, and it draws together for the public the archaeological study of shipwrecks and the scientific study the single-cell organisms found living in the lake. The exhibit will include approximately 20 pieces of art (paintings, drawings, and photographs of the amoebae taken with an electron microscope).  A short introductory video on display will provide background on the exhibit. (Pepe Productions of Glens Falls, the local filmmaking firm that produced the Lake George documentaries The Lost Radeau: North America’s Oldest Intact Warship (2005) and Wooden Bones: The Sunken Fleet of 1758 (2009), will provide technical assistance with the video component.)

To complement the exhibit the art/science team will present a three-hour workshop, Beyond the Bateaux, on Saturday, August 29, 2009 at the Wiawaka Holiday House. This instructional program will be taught by visual and teaching artist Chris Moran, along with the exhibition's art/science team.  Interested adults are invited to explore, create, collaborate and contribute to this hands-on workshop that will bring a deeper understanding of the art exhibit and of Lake George natural history. The workshop is free, but space is limited; registration is absolutely required. Please contact the Lake George Arts Project for more information and for a registration form.

A special feature of this art exhibit is the display of Ms. Mossop’s artwork from the venue of the bottom of Lake George. Several archival prints on waterproof paper will be mounted on easels placed on the lake bottom around the replica bateau located in “The Sunken Fleet of 1758” shipwreck preserve.  This underwater state park lies one mile east of the Lake George Arts Project gallery, on the east side of the lake off the historic Wiawaka Holiday House. The underwater site also features seven bateau-class shipwrecks, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The 23 ft. long replica bateau, built by students from the Bolton, Minerva, and Newcomb school districts, was added to the preserve in 1997. The unique underwater art exhibit, approved by the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Office of General Services, and the Lake George Park Commission. A special scale model diorama created specifically for this one-of-a-kind project, depicting the underwater component of the dual exhibit, will be displayed at the Lake George Arts Project gallery. Bateaux Below ship modeler John Farrell created the informative diorama. 

Exhibition reviews online:
The Post Star
Albany Times Union

 

This exhibition was made possible with support
from The National Science Foundation

 

*"Raising the Fleet" was supported in part by NSF grant ANT0440769 awarded to S.S. Bowser. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the The National Science Foundation."

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