Two shipwreck hunters from Thunder Bay have discovered the wreck of the first ship to be registered in Canada.

David Shepherd and Robert Valley recently discovered the tugboat Mary Ann, which they say was registered the same year as Confederation — 1867.

Canadian tug 'Mary Ann'

The Canadian tug boat Mary Ann was registered in 1867. The ship was recently discovered by two divers in Thunder Bay, using scanning equipment "and a lot of luck." (Supplied)

The wreckage of the tug, which was intentionally sunk in the 1930s, is located in waters near the Welcome Islands, just a few kilometres from Thunder Bay.

"This was the 'No.1' ship for Canada," Shepherd said. "To actually have a chance to dive on it is phenomenal."

Shepherd said he's not sure why the ship was scuttled so close to shore, as it was supposed to be located closer to Sleeping Giant. Nevertheless, he said it was a thrilling find.

David Shepherd and Rob Valley

Thunder Bay divers David Shepherd and Robert Valley recently discovered the tugboat Mary Ann, which they say was registered the same year as Confederation — 1867. (Supplied)

"As someone who looks for shipwrecks, it's just this feeling of overwhelming awe that we were the first divers ever to be on this shipwreck,” he said.

Shepherd said he and other area divers hope to connect with the organization Save Ontario Shipwrecks, to ensure wreck sites such as the Mary Ann are properly protected.

Read the divers' official press release, along with background information, below.