A team consisting of three explorers had discovered a shipwreck deep below Lake Ontario, which was then confirmed to be the remains of a sloop named Washington or Lady Washington that sank in a gale in the lake in 1803.

The discovery, announced by the National Museum of the Great Lakes, is considered to be the oldest commercial sailing vessel found in the Great Lakes. However, it came in second as the oldest confirmed ship wreck in the Great Lakes, following the British warship HMS Ontario, which sank in Lake Ontario in 1780.

Originally built on Lake Eerie in Pennsylvania in 1798, the Washington was used to transport people in goods between New York, Pennsylvania and Ontario. In 1802, Canadian merchants bought the ship and transported it to Lake Ontario using skids hauled by a team of oxen across the portage road around Niagara Falls, making it the first sloop to set sail in both Lake Eerie and Lake Ontario.

With funds from the National Museum of Great Lakes, Jim Kennard, Roger Palowski and Roland Stevens conducted an underwater survey in Lake Ontario. After finding something that looks like the Washington, the team sent a remotely operated underwater vehicle to confirm their discovery.

According to the report from Associated Press, the ship was last seen as it departs from Kingston, Ontario going back to its homeport in Niagara, Ontario. Three crew members, along with two merchants, died aboard the ship as it succumb to the storm. A cargo of merchandise, including goods from India was also drowned in the lake when the Washington sank.

The discovery of the Washington could provide new insights regarding the design and construction of sloops that were used on the Great Lakes between the American Revolution and the war of 1812. Single-masted sloops were replaced with schooners with two to three masts in the early 19th century. So far, no known drawings of the Washington are available for analysis.