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Atlas, shipwreck of 1839, discovered near Oswego

The hold of the Atlas, containing a load of limestone.


By Justin Murphy - Democrat and Chronicle

Almost 175 years ago, a 52-foot boat carrying a load of limestone ran into a violent storm as it approached the port of Oswego.

The combination of high winds, tall waves and a heavy cargo proved fatal to the five sailors aboard.

But the ship itself, the Atlas, has been located by a team of Rochester-area shipwreck hunters, who hailed it as the oldest confirmed commercial shipwreck site in the Great Lakes.

The find was made last month by a three-man team using a torpedo-like sonar device and a remote-controlled underwater camera the size of a microwave.

Matching the wreck location with the cargo and the ship’s size and construction proved the pile of timber, seaweed and mussels was in fact the Atlas.

The condition of the wreck indicates the ship, sailing from Chaumont, Jefferson County, went down in a hurry after its heavy cargo shifted suddenly in the bad weather.

The deck collapsed on impact, the sides fell away and the two masts toppled to the side.

The boat came to rest at a depth of 300 feet and had not been noticed since it settled there in 1839.

It went down like the stone it was carrying,” said Jim Kennard of Perinton, one of the explorers.

“With a strong northwest gale, the buildup of the waves can get pretty fierce. A boat like that gets hit by a strong wave and that’s all it takes.”


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