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Expedition Discovers the Oldest Confirmed Great Lakes Commercial Schooner

On expedition with Flag #202, Club Fellow James Kennard FN’13, along with partners Roger Pawlowski and Roland Stevens, announced Thursday that their team has located the Atlas: a 52-foot-long vessel which sank in May 1839 during a violent storm on Lake Ontario. The wreckage was about two miles north of Oswego, originally found using high resolution DeepVision side-scan sonar in more than 200 feet of water. The team returned two weeks ago and deployed an underwater ROV which revealed extensive damage to the craft, “best summed up as a mess.” Violent contact with the lake bed collapsed the deck and caused the sides to fall away, yet the ship’s wheel—heavily encrusted in mussels—remained intact. The schooner met its fate while hauling a cargo of limestone quarried in Jefferson County to Oswego, NY, and the ROV discovered cut stone still inside one of the holds.

Wreck of the schooner Atlas (1839) in Lake Ontario near Oswego, NY
Sketch courtesy of Roland Stevens

Kennard believes the Atlas to be the oldest confirmed commercial schooner discovered in the Great Lakes, explaining that “a search of shipwreck databases and discussions with several maritime historians was made to determine if there was another previously discovered Great Lakes commercial schooner that may be older than the Atlas. There has been some speculation of earlier vessels but none have been positively identified.”

This is one of several historic shipwrecks that Kennard, Pawlowski and Stevens have been searching for this season. They have located several other wrecks which will be announced in the near future as further imaging and information is gathered, and will be posting updates throughout the season on

Click Here to read Jim Kennard’s synopsis on, accompanied by more photos of the wreck.

Click Here to read the Associated Press piece on the discovery via the Syracuse Post-Standard

Photo: Hatch looking into ship’s hold containing cut stone,
courtesy of Roger Pawlowski

Published by : Kevin Murphy

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