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August 18, 2016

A team of underwater explorers announced Wednesday that they discovered the Great Lakes’ second oldest shipwreck on record earlier this year.

The three-person team, based in Western New York, dove into the depths of Lake Ontario and discovered the 200-year-old remains of the Sloop Washington, off the coast of Oswego, New York.

The Washington—or Lady Washington, as the ship was nicknamed—was built in Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1798. The ship was used to transport people and goods around the Great Lakes waterways, mainly between Ontario, Western New York, and Pennsylvania. But its career was cut short in 1803 when the ship sank in a gale in Lake Ontario, with at least five people on board.

The 53-foot-long ship was carrying merchandise, including goods from India valued at $20,000, from Kingston, Ontario, to its home port in Niagara. On Lake Ontario, the sloop was caught in a fierce storm and the ship’s body devastated. Pieces of the boat and its cargo washed up on Oswego’s shores the following day.

The explorers hope that the discovery of this ship will help maritime historians paint a clearer picture of the types of ships used in the early 1800s.

Roger Pawlowski/Shipwreck World

Roger Pawlowski/Shipwreck World

Roger Pawlowski/Shipwreck World

“This one is very special. We don’t get too many like this,” Jim Kennard, a member of the exploration team, told the Associated Press.

The oldest shipwreck in the Great Lakes was discovered in 2008, also by Kennard and his team in Lake Ontario. The HMS Ontario was a British warship that sank in 1780, when it hit a storm during service for the Revolutionary War.

More than 600 ships sank in Lake Ontario and it’s estimated that the bodies of about 200 people still remain, waiting to be discovered.

Cailey Rizzo writes about travel, art and culture and is the founding editor of The Local Dive. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @misscaileyanne.

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