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Cool history find: Ship that sank in the Great Lakes 200 years ago discovered

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A team of underwater explorers has discovered what's believed to be the second-oldest confirmed shipwreck in all of the Great Lakes.

A team led by Jim Kennard discovered The Washington – a sloop that shipwrecked in 1803 – at the bottom of Lake Ontario in June, the National Museum of the Great Lakes said Wednesday.

The museum, which funded the team's search, says The Washington is believed to be the oldest discovered commercial shipwreck in the Great Lakes.

The oldest shipwreck of any kind that's been discovered is the warship HMS Ontario, which was lost in 1780 and discovered by the same team back in 2008, Shipwreck World reports.

When she crashed

The Washington – a small, single masted vessel used in coastal trading – was built in Pennsylvania in 1797. It sailed on Lake Erie for a few years before being sold to Canadian merchants in 1800, who used it on Lake Ontario.

The Washington's last voyage began Nov. 6, 1803. She left from Kingston with five men on board, but was never seen again, according to the museum.

The discovery of a ship that was built in the 18th century is a big deal for historians – it gives them a look at how ships were constructed between the American Revolution and the War of 1812, the museum's Archaeological Director Carrie Sowden told The Associated Press.

"Breaking the 18th century barrier is not only psychologically important, but the wreck may reveal the earliest shipbuilding techniques on the Great Lakes ever examined," Christopher Gillcrist, the executive director of the museum told

The Washington is among an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 ships that have been wrecked on the Great Lakes, says.

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