A lot of people take up hobbies after they retire, but shipwreck-hunting probably isn't one of the more popular options. A group of three retirees in upstate New York who meet regularly to search for wrecks recently found the ruins of an 18th-century trading vessel at the bottom of Lake Ontario, Gizmodo reports.
Launched in 1798, the Washington shuttled furs and other goods across Lake Erie and Lake Ontario for just five years before it went down on November 6, 1803. Its discovers say it is the oldest commercial sailing ship ever to be lost and found on the Great Lakes and the region’s second-oldest shipwreck of any kind.
The 53-foot sloop met its demise during a trip from Kingston, Ontario, to Niagara, Ontario. A storm hit Lake Ontario the same day the ship departed, dooming the vessel as well as the crew and merchants on board.
The shipwrecking-hunting team spotted the vessel near Oswego, New York in late June using sonar scanning technology. It was confirmed a few weeks later after an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) was sent down to capture high-resolution photos of the remains.
The band of retirees consists of former architect Roland "Chip" Stevens, retired Air Force Reserve pilot and electrical engineer Roger Pawlowski, and long-time shipwreck diver Jim Kennard. Kennard has played a hand in the discovery of 200 wrecks since the 1970s, and now he meets with his friends to look for lost ships some 15 to 20 times a year.
Their latest find is a landmark discovery. The Great Lakes have hosted approximately 6000 maritime disasters, but artifacts from the period between the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 are scarce in the area. Given the rarity of the wreck, the team has chosen to leave the Washington undisturbed and keep its location hidden from everyone but a few archaeologists.
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