A 22-gun British warship that sank during the American Revolution and has long been regarded as one of the "Holy Grail" shipwrecks in the Great Lakes has been discovered at the bottom of Lake Ontario, astonishingly well-preserved in the cold, deep water, explorers announced Friday.And apparently the wreck is in great shape:
Shipwreck enthusiasts Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville used side-scanning sonar and an unmanned submersible to locate the HMS Ontario, which was lost with barely a trace and as many as 130 people aboard during a gale in 1780.
The 80-foot sloop of war is the oldest shipwreck and the only fully intact British warship ever found in the Great Lakes, Scoville and Kennard said.
"To have a Revolutionary War vessel that's practically intact is unbelievable. It's an archaeological miracle," said Canadian author Arthur Britton Smith, who chronicled the history of the HMS Ontario in a 1997 book, "The Legend of the Lake."
The dark, cold freshwater acts as a perfect preservative, Smith said. At that depth, there is no light and no oxygen to hasten decomposition, and little marine life to feed on the wood.Contemporary reports include:
The Ontario went down on Oct. 31, 1780, with a garrison of 60 British soldiers, a crew of about 40, mostly Canadians, and possibly about 30 American war prisoners.
After the ship disappeared, the British conducted a sweeping search but tried to keep the sinking secret from Gen. George Washington's troops because of the blow to the British defenses.And here's a wierd fact I didn't know:
Hatchway gratings, the binnacle, compasses and several hats and blankets drifted ashore the next day. A few days later the ship's sails were found adrift in the lake. In 1781, six bodies from the Ontario were found near Wilson, N.Y. For the next two centuries, there were no other traces of the ship.
There are an estimated 4,700 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, including about 500 on Lake Ontario.And they are going to do a documentary. Cool.