A Great Lakes shipwreck was discovered on Wednesday after 213 years. In 1803, the Washington sailed into a violent storm while traveling between Kingston, Ontario, and Niagara on Lake Ontario. According to reports, the commercial cargo vessel was overwhelmed and subsequently sank. Although some of the ship’s cargo washed up near Oswego, the ship’s final resting place remained a mystery for more than 200 years.
As reported by MLive, the Washington was a sloop ship, which was built in the United States for the Pennsylvania Population Company. The vessel was originally launched into Lake Erie from Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1801. Two years later, it was sold to an Ontario merchant group and was transferred to Lake Ontario.
— ABC News (@ABC) August 18, 2016
On November 6, 1803, the Washington left Kingston to return its home port. According to reports, the 36-ton ship was carrying approximately $20,000 worth of cargo and had at least five people aboard, including two merchants and crew members.
Unfortunately, the vessel encountered a specifically strong storm and was overcome by the powerful winds and destructive waves. The Washington sank to the bottom of Lake Superior and all five passengers and crew members were killed.
More than 200 years later, the Great Lakes shipwreck was discovered by Jim Kennard, Roger Pawlowski, and Roland Stevens.
Using a high-resolution sonar device, the team actually found the Washington in June. However, they were unable to confirm the identity of the vessel for several weeks because adverse weather prevented their remotely operated vehicle from reaching the wreckage.
The discovery of the Washington is significant, as sloop ships were only used for a short period of time on the Great Lakes.
Detroit Free Press reports sloop ships only had a single mast, which made them particularly difficult to sail. They were replaced with schooners, which had two or three masts, in the early 19th century.
Canadian-owned shipwreck discovered in Lake Ontario https://t.co/9Doq1Huc9W
— CTV News Barrie (@CTVBarrieNews) August 18, 2016
Prior to the discovery of the Great Lakes shipwreck, there were no known drawings or photographs of the Washington. Now that the ship has been located, researchers will have an opportunity to study the design of the unique ship.
The discovery of the Great Lakes shipwreck also revealed heavy damage on the rear of the ship, which suggests the stern sank before the bow.
The Washington is now the second-oldest Great Lakes shipwreck ever discovered. The oldest remains the HMS Ontario, which was discovered by Dan Scoville in 2008, 235 years after it sank.
As the Great Lakes have always been heavily traveled, Great Lake shipwrecks are quite plentiful. Escape Here reports up to 25,000 boats and ships have sunk in the five Great Lakes.
Perhaps the most famous Great Lakes shipwreck is the SS Edmund Fitzgerald.
The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was christened on June 8, 1957. At the time, it was the single largest Great Lakes freighter ship.
On November 9, 1975, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald left Duluth, Wisconsin, with a 116-ton load of taconite pellets. Although the National Weather Service issued a gale warning, the ship continued its planned journey toward Detroit, Michigan.
Over the next 17 hours, the ship’s crew reported increasing winds and exceptionally rough waters. However, the ship did not make any further weather reports after 7:00 am on November 10.
Instead, SS Edmund Fitzgerald Captain Ernest M. McSorley made contact with SS Arthur M. Anderson Captain Jesse Cooper, who was also sailing in the same vicinity.
At approximately 3:30 p.m., McSorley reported to Cooper that the ship “sustained some topside damage.” Less than one hour later, he reported that he “lost both radars.”
Over the next four hours, Cooper requested assistance numerous times. However, at 7:10 p.m., the SS Edmund Fitzgerald broadcast their last communication, which was “we are holding our own.”
SSEdmundFitzgerald.org reports it is estimated that the ship went down between 7:20 and 7:30 p.m., killing all 29 passengers and crew.
Although the Great Lakes shipwreck discovered on Wednesday was significant because of the style of ship and its age, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald remains the largest ship to have ever sunk in the Great Lakes.
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