Great Lakes' second-oldest shipwreck discovered in Lake Ontario

When it comes to shipwrecks discovered in the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan usually gets all the attention. That's not the case with the latest discovery, though, which has turned up the Great Lakes region's second-oldest shipwreck in Lake Ontario. The ship, which was built in America but owned by Canadians, sank in 1803. The team behind the discovery announced their find in a statement today, saying the shipwreck concerns the vessel "Washington," which has long been known to have sank during a storm.

"Washington" was a 53ft sloop built on Lake Erie from Pennsylvania in the late 1700s, and soon after was sold to Canadian merchants. The vessel was transported from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario via skids and a team of oxen. The merchants only got about a year of use out of it, though, before a storm caused it — and a load of goods acquired from India — to sink into the water. Unfortunately, at least five people who were aboard at the time died.

Lake Michigan's oddly clear water reveals old shipwrecks

Records were made and kept detailing all of this, but the ship's final resting place has long been a mystery. The ship is notable for a particular reason, though, and that is its somewhat rare design — these kind of single-mast sloops were replaced fairly quickly with ships that had at least two masts, which were easier to operate. No one had drawn the Washington (which was also the only sloop to have sailed in both Lake Ontario and Erie) before it sank, and so historians haven't been entirely clear about what they looked like.

As the image above shows, the ship is pretty well preserved and reveals a lot of details about the design used...something that will help historians flesh out knowledge about ship building from this particular sliver of American history.

SOURCE: Associated Press