Museums collaborate to bring sunken steamboat documentary to the Midcoast

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ROCKLAND –The documentary, “Sunken Steamboats of Moosehead Lake,” will be shown Monday, July 10, 6:30 p.m. at the Sail, Power, and Steam Museum at 75 Mechanic Street.

“Sunken Steamboats of Moosehead Lake” outlines the history of steam boating on Moosehead Lake through oral history interviews, archival images and underwater video. This historical documentary reveals some of the remains of vessels that now lie on the bottom of the largest freshwater lake east of the Mississippi in one state.

The showing of the documentary is a collaboration of the Moosehead Maritime Museum, Penobscot Marine Museum and Sail, Power and Steam Museum.

Diver and filmmaker, Ryan Robbins grew up on Moosehead Lake, touring her shores with his dad who was a fishing guide, notes Liz McKeil, Executive Director of the Moosehead Marine Museum.

As an adult, Robbins was fascinated by stories of the steamships that once plied Moosehead Lake, and as he learned to dive, he began to explore. Then he met McKeil, and together they envisioned a documentary to tell the stories of Moosehead’s maritime cultural heritage and the history of these beautiful old vessels.

Today, the 1914 Katahdin is the only operating steamboat allowing visitors to experience the beauty of Moosehead Lake. Back in the early 1900s, over 25 steamboats cruised the Lake, some as large as 130 feet. Where now only one vessel sits at the dock, in the steam boating heydays, eight of them might have waited for passengers and cargo.  Many of these vessels  now lie on the bottom of the lake.

These vessels were the biggest factor in the development of the area, Robbins explained. Before the arrival of cars and roads, visitors would arrive in Greenville by train or stagecoach. From there, they would travel by steamboat to their destination on the lake. The steamboats transported passengers along with cargo such as linens and pianos headed to the fancy resorts on the lake, and farm animals, freight, and possibly a Model T or two to homes, camps, and farms. 

Robin McIntosh, Associate Director of the Sail, Power, and Steam Museum, noted that Moosehead Lake, much like Penobscot Bay and our Atlantic seaboard, served as a transportation highway long before road construction and car travel and became the norm.  “It was, in effect, the I95 of western Maine back then,” she said.

Karen Smith, Executive Director of the Penobscot Marine Museum, added that this cultural connection between the state’s eastern shores and the hills and lakes of western Maine created the perfect scenario for the three museums to collaborate.

Tickets for the event will be available at the door for a suggested donation of $5.00.  For more information:,,

Event Date: 

Mon, 07/10/2023 - 6:30pm