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200-Year-Old Shipwreck Discovered In Great Lakes

A team of underwater explorers has discovered the second-oldest shipwreck in the Great Lakes area, Fox News reports.

The New York-based group said it found the American-built sloop that had sunk over 200 years ago in the deep waters off Oswego in central New York. The vessel sank during a storm back in 1803, said Jim Kennard, one of the explorers.

Kennard, along with Roland “Chip” Stevens and Roger Pawlowski, has been searching for shipwrecks a long time. The team has found a number of them in Lake Ontario and other bodies of water. This one is a different matter, though. Kennard said,

This one is very special. We don’t get too many like this.

The 18th-century ship, named Lady Washington, was made on Lake Erie in Pennsylvania in 1798 then used to ferry goods between New York, Pennsylvania, and Ontario. It was later sold to Canadian merchants, placed on skids and pulled by teams of oxen across the border to Lake Ontario in 1802.

Measuring 53 feet long, the sloop set sail from Kingston, Ontario for Niagara on Nov. 6, 1803. It had at least five people on board, along with merchandise that included goods imported from India. On the way, Lady Washington got caught in a massive storm and sank, leaving its three crew members and two passengers dead.

Kennard said that modern records stated that pieces of the ship and some of the cargo washed ashore near Oswego the next day.

The Lady Washington is now confirmed as the oldest commercial sailing vessel discovered in the Great Lakes and is the only known sloop to have ferried across lakes Erie and Ontario. Carrie Sowden, archeological director at the National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo, Ohio, added that single-masted sloops such as the Washington were replaced by two and three-masted schooners in the early 19th century because they proved much easier to sail. The Museum backs Kennard’s team in their explorations.

There are no known drawings of Lady Washington, making its find a big help for maritime historians. The vessel can provide concrete information on the design and construction of such ships used on the Great Lakes in the significant period between the American Revolution and the War of 1812, Sowden said.

The oldest ship ever discovered in the Great Lakes is the HMS Ontario, a British warship that sank to its ruin in Lake Ontario in 1780. It was also Kennard, with another diver, who located the wreckage in 2008.

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