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Oneida Lake – New York’s Shipwreck Graveyard


Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Oneida Lake, the largest inland lake in New York state is also the site of a great number of shipwrecks.  Because the lake was part of the Erie Canal system, Oneida Lake saw lots of commerical traffic beginning in the mid-1800s.

Today the locations of many of these wrecks is kept secret by local fishermen who don’t want to give up prized fishing locations.

One of the best knows wrecks is that of

Tug Thomas H: One of the most popular wreck dives in Oneida Lake was discovered and documented 1987 by divers Jim Allen and Tim Caza.  On May 29th 1945 the tug Thomas H was towing six heavily loaded barges headed for Oswego.  The tug and its tow were caught in a gale with winds gusting up to 45 miles and per hour. The Thomas H battled the wind and waves for several hours before the hawsers broke and the six barges drifted off into the darkness of the night.   The tug was leaking badly and the pumps could not keep up with the incoming flow of water.  Twelve of the crew abandoned the tug just before it sank and boarded one of the barges which eventually grounded on a shallow area near mid channel.  They were rescued the next day.  One crew member on one of the other barges was lost.  Three of the six barges grounded near shore and the other three sank within a short distance from the tug Thomas H.

A team of SCUBA enthusiasts set out in August to document the many tugs and barges at the bottom of Oneida Lake.

They used sonar to capture images of the underwater wrecks, and can be seen on


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