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Warship's Hull Contains Little but Treasure May Still Be Found

August 13, 1986|United Press International

LEWES, Del. — The hull of an 18th-Century British warship exhumed from Delaware Bay yielded only a gold coin, a shoe and some pig iron, but salvagers said Tuesday they believe a fortune in treasure may still be found in the water.

"I think (the bay's floor) has treasure, much more than we found," said L. John Davidson, the New Hampshire developer who is financing the $2.5-million recovery effort.

Archeologists pored over wreckage brought to the surface late Monday night and found a single piece of Spanish gold, a leather shoe and pig iron used as ballast aboard the HMS DeBraak.

Human bones also were found in the water but were not touched by the divers.

Divers already have recovered from the bottom of the bay more than 200 doubloons, hundreds of other silver and gold coins and thousands of artifacts ranging from a toothbrush to a gold ring worn by the DeBraak's captain, Lt. James Drew, who went down with the ship in a squall in 1798.

The recovery of another gold coin late Monday night--and 30 other doubloons during the week--fueled hopes there may be a king's ransom estimated at up to $500 million embedded in the sediment where the 120-ton ship sank in 80 feet of water.

Divers rested Tuesday and prepared to lower a giant shovel to where the wreck settled. The shovel will dredge for the treasure for at least one week, project organizers said.

Salvagers brought a 70-foot section of the ship, dripping mud from its copper and wooden sides, to the surface Monday night for the first time in 188 years.

The DeBraak, captured from the Dutch in 1795, was on its way to Lewes when it sank. It was believed to be filled with gold, silver and jewelry--a rumor fed by reports of sailors struggling ashore laden with gold coins and "living it up" in Lewes for years.

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