A diver exploring Vermont's Lake Champlain with his wife said the couple made a startling discovery: two paddle wheels from a 201-year-old steamboat shipwreck.

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Gary Lefebvre said he and his wife, Ellen, were using a remotely operated vehicle off Colchester Shoal when they spotted what appeared to be pieces of wreckage.

The Lefebvres contacted the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, where Chris Sabick, the facility's director of research and archaeology, determined the objects were the paddle wheels from the Phoenix, a steamboat that sank into the lake Sept. 4, 1819.

The museum said all 46 passengers and crew members of the Phoenix were forced to abandon ship when the vessel caught fire. Six people died while trying to swim back to shore.

"I know the story of the Phoenix," Gary Lefebvre told WCVB-TV. "I had no idea there was anything left of this thing."

The paddle wheels were located about a mile from the remains of the main hull of the Phoenix, which is between 60 and 110 feet below the surface of the water and is frequently visited by scuba divers.

"The bottom of Lake Champlain is a well preserved museum, and I enjoy seeing things for the first time that no one has ever seen on the bottom, or even knew existed," Lefebvre told CNN.

The site of the Phoenix shipwreck is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the Vermont Underwater Historic Preserves.