Big news last week with the discovery of the “practically intact” HMS Ontario in nearly 500 feet waters of Lake Ontario. The Revolution War era 80-foot British sloop of war went down during gale in 1780 with a compliment of Canadian crew, British Soldiers, and possibly American POWs.
It’s considered one of the earliest discovered shipwrecks in America. New York is also home to the a 1758 Land Tortoise fully intact in Lake George’s south basin.
The Associated Press carried the story of the HMS Ontario – “the oldest shipwreck and the only fully intact British warship ever found in the Great Lakes.”
The finders of the wreck said they regard it as a war grave and have no plans to raise it or remove any of its artifacts. They said the ship is still considered the property of the British Admiralty.
The sloop was discovered resting partially on its side, with two masts extending more than 70 feet above the lake bottom…
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.
The warship had been launched only five months earlier and was used to ferry troops and supplies along upstate New York’s frontier. Although it was the biggest British ship on the Great Lakes at the time, it never saw battle, Smith said.
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.
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.