Arthur Britton Smith

230-year-old British warship found in Lake Ontario

By Patrick White

The last time anyone laid eyes on her, the Ontario was the most-feared ship on the Great Lakes. 

It was 1780. Yankee militias were threatening to storm across Lake Ontario and seize Montreal from the British. And if it weren't for the intimidating profile of the 226-ton Ontario – 22 cannons, two 80-foot masts, a beamy hull with cargo space for 1000 barrels – they just may have. 

But six months after she launched, the pride of the Great Lakes fleet sailed into a Halloween squall with around 120 passengers on board and was never seen again. It remains the worst-ever disaster recorded on Lake Ontario, according to Kingston historian Arthur Britton Smith. 

For 228 years, the Ontario eluded countless shipwreck-hunters, thwarting any explanation of her disappearance and fanning rumours of a priceless booty on board.