The long-lost Atlas shipwreck has been discovered at the bottom of Lake Ontario about two miles north of Oswego. The vessel went down in a fierce storm on the Great Lakes in 1839.
The double-masted, 52-foot schooner was discovered by three shipwreck enthusiasts and is being hailed as the oldest commercial wreck discovered in the Great Lakes.
The Atlas was built in 1838 to transport limestone from the Black River quarries in New York, reports The Huffington Post. It was carrying a load of the heavy mineral meant for the US government harbor in Oswego when it was lost to the storm.
Jim Kennard, Roger Pawlowski, and Roland “Chip” Stevens made the discovery. Kennard commented that it was the cargo the Atlas carried that doomed it. A gale force wind caused the ship’s heavy load to shift. He explained:
“It went down like the stone it was carrying. With a strong northwest gale, the buildup of the waves can get pretty fierce. A boat like that gets hit by a strong wave and that’s all it takes.”
The Atlas shipwreck killed all five people aboard, including the ship’s owner, Asa Davis. Detroit News notes that the trio of enthusiasts located the Atlas in June while searching for shipwrecks along the eastern end of Lake Ontario.
Using side-scan sonar, the remains were discovered in more than 200 feet of water. The ship was just two miles from its destination when it met its fate almost 200 years ago. The ship’s sinking was witnessed by several people on shore, who deployed a rescue ship to look for survivors. Unfortunately, none were discovered.
Video taken of the Atlas shipwreck shows it hit the bottom of Lake Ontario so hard the deck collapsed on itself and the masts toppled over. However, The ship’s wheel remains intact, albeit heavily crusted with mussels. While the ship’s name doesn’t appear on the hull, it was the only ship of its size known to be sunk in that area. Some of the ship’s stone cargo remains in its hold.
Kennard added that there are other commercial schooner shipwrecks on the Great Lakes that are older than the Atlas. However, none have been positively identified. The Atlas shipwreck will be left where it came to rest on the bottom of Lake Ontario.
[Image by Dirk Ingo Franke via Wikimedia Commons]