AP/courtesy of Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville
A video still of the sunken 228-year-old
British warship HMS Ontario

Sunken British Warship Found After 228 Years

June 16, 2008 08:00 AM
by Isabel Cowles
The HMS Ontario, a British warship that sank in 1780, has been discovered nearly intact.

30-Second Summary

The HMS Ontario, a British warship that sank in 1780, has been found.

During its time, the vessel was the largest British war ship to sail the Great Lakes. It sank after just 5 months on the water.

The ship and its crew disappeared in a blizzard on Halloween night. Six bodies washed ashore eventually, and though the British searched for the vessel, they never reported its loss to American troops.

Sailors and ship enthusiasts have searched for the HMS Ontario for 228 years. In 1995, divers apparently misidentified another ship as the HMS Ontario.

But finding a sunken ship is like “finding a tossed coin in the lake,” said one of the investigators who thought he had found the HMS Ontario 13 years ago.

Even more impressive than the recent discovery of the real HMS Ontario is that the vessel is nearly intact. According to one of the ship’s discoverers, Dan Scoville, “The Ontario is so complete, the two masts are in place and there's still glass in some of its windows." [#1]

Arthur Britton Smith, who chronicled the shipwreck in his book, “Legend of the Lake: The 22-Gun Brig-Sloop Ontario, 1780,” explains why the vessel was found in such good condition: “The dark, cold freshwater acts as a perfect preservative. At that depth, there is no light and no oxygen to hasten decomposition, and little marine life to feed on the wood.”

Headline Links: Wreck of HMS Ontario Finally Located

Background Links: The HMS Ontario, Lost and Not Found

History of the HMS Ontario
Mistaken Identity

Reference: Specifications of the HMS Ontario

Related Topics: Items Associated with the HMS Ontario


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