- On 26/11/2008
- In Treasure Hunting / Recoveries
By Bob Kostoff
A sudden gale stormed over Lake Ontario on a gloomy Halloween night in 1780, spelling doom for the ill-fated sloop Ontario and drowning nearly 90 souls on board.
The wreckage and human bones recline today deep in the lake-bottom silt somewhere between Fort Niagara and the Town of Somerset.
A trio of Olcott men thought they had discovered the wreckage in 1995, but last year two Rochester divers claimed they discovered the wreckage and the Olcott find was misinterpreted.
Ironically, the British warship went down in the general vicinity where explorer La Salle's ship Frontenac sank on Jan. 8, 1679.
No lives were lost in that incident, but La Salle lost most of the material he was transporting to build the Griffon where Cayuga Creek flows into the Niagara River.
Although there were no survivors of the Ontario to tell of the horror of that night, many have speculated.
The Ontario was en route from Fort Niagara to Carlton Island, located at the beginning of the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River near present-day Kingston. Ont.
A great hurricane developed in October 1780 in the Caribbean. The British lost four ships to the hurricane (storms were not assigned names in that era) in the vicinity of St. Lucia and St. Vincent. Then Martinique was struck, and the French lost 40 ships there.
As today, the hurricane moved up the east coast and probably turned into a tropical storm when it hit land, but contained enough virulent energy to create a vicious Nor'easter storm. The Nor'easters are well known in this area for their sudden destructiveness.