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Lake Ontario Shipwreck - Black Duck - Scow Sloop

Found by:  Dan Scoville & Chris Koberstein - July 2013

Location:  Off Oswego, NY

Black Duck Found

On August 1st 1872 a small scow sloop called the Black Duck sailed for Dexter, NY and disappeared beneath the waves of Lake Ontario. The final resting place of the long lost ship was located by Dan Scoville and Chris Koberstein during a side scan sonar search conducted summer 2013.

Final Voyage

On its final voyage the small scow sloop Black Duck headed out into Mexico Bay on Lake Ontario.  The ship's final destination that day was Dexter, NY where the crew planned to unload a cargo of coal consigned for M. B. Casler.  This was a trip that the sloop had made many times before but things did not go as planned on this voyage.


Midway through the journey across the lake a stiff wind blew in and the crew found themselves broad side to a building sea.   Despite the best efforts of her crew, water continued to come over the rail and collect in the ship’s hold, causing the Black Duck to settle deeper into the water with each wave.  Eventually the ship could no longer support the weight of the water and it slipped beneath the waves in Mexico Bay.   In the final moments the captain and crew made a desperate effort to launch the ships yawl in the heavy seas.  Finally with much effort and only after the captains wife had narrowly escaped drowning was the yawl launch and the entire crew made for shore.

Mystery Cargo

The August 8th 1872 edition of the Watertown Journal lists the Black Duck’s final cargo as 30 tons of coal.  This would have been a heavy load for the little sloop that only had a 21 ton displacement listed on her enrollment papers.  This extra heavy load likely contributed to the loss of the vessel.


The book Old Shipping Days in Oswego by Finn lists the Black Duck’s cargo as whiskey on her final voyage.  If this were true it would make and interesting story and possibly some valuable old liquor on the bottom of the lake.  Unfortunately no other sources could be found to back up this claim.  Where Finn found this information remains a mystery.  The wreck of the Black Duck is not ready to give up the secret either as her cargo hold is filled to the top with silt obscuring any view of her cargo.  

Unique Boat in Lake Ontario

Resting on the bottom of the lake the Black Duck is in excellent condition.  Her single mast still towers above the deck.  She has an interesting cabin that stretches across the ship from port to starboard making it impossible to get to the stern rail without standing on the cabin roof.  The ships tiller stretches all the way from her rudder post on the transom to the forward wall of her cabin.  This allowed the helmsman to stand on deck in front of the cabin when steering the ship.  The Black Duck has one large cargo hold that is separated by a large partition in the center.  It is possible that this partition holds the ships centerboard.  The ship rudder has a very shallow draft but has a large surface area going aft.  This construction attests to the Black Duck being built to allow the ship to move in shallow water. 

The Discovery Team​
Dan Scoville is an experienced cave and technical diver. In 2005, Dan led the development of an underwater remote operated vehicle (ROV) with a team of college seniors from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He is currently a project manager and electrical engineer for Oceaneering International in Houston, TX


Chris Koberstein is an experienced cave, technical and rebreather diver. Chris uses sophisticated rebreather diving equipment to explore depths to over 300 feet. Chris works as an aviation maintenance technician with Air Canada.

Contact information​
Dan Scoville - cell 1-832-423-6318

Chris Koberstein – home 1-450-458-3590 cell 1-514-236-0824

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