URGENT deBraak Reportedly Raised From Delaware Bay
LEWES, Del. (AP) _ Salvagers hoping to find millions of dollars in treasure pulled the wreck of the HMS deBraak up from Delaware Bay on Monday night, nearly two centuries after the 18th century British brig sank.
After a full day of heavy seas, high winds, and mechanical problems with the crane used to lift the ship, a 70-foot section was raised and loaded onto a barge.
Kevin McCormick, project manager for Sub-Sal Inc., which has a contract with the state to salvage the ship, said it will take from two to three weeks to scoop out the sediment on the bottom where the treasure may be.
When part of the ship broke the surface at around 9 p.m., Claudia Melson, a state curator, was full of excitement. Floodlights silhouetted billowing smoke from the crane’s roaring motor as the starboard side of the deBraak hung suspended in the dark.
″It was very dramatic to see it here at nighttime, with all the ghostly qualities the legend deserves,″ said Ms. Melson, who has been involved in the project for a year, cleaning, restoring and cataloging artifacts recovered from the wreck since salvaging began in 1984.
The 70-foot stern was raised upside down.
″The keel is to the top. The planking is the starboard side. It’s what you see the most intact,″ Ms. Melson said. ″The extreme bow and stern were not physically attached to this portion. The port portion is mostly gone.″
Plans to raise the ship Monday afternoon were abandoned because of high seas and heavy winds and also because one of the slings placed around the hull popped off the hook on a crane.
″The weather isn’t the best. There are heavy seas and high winds,″ said McCormick. McCormick wanted to complete the operation Monday night because ″if there’s bad weather tomorrow (Tuesday), it tends to stay for three days.″
The part of the ship that was to be raised was brought up at 80 feet at a rate of 1 1/2 feet per minute to keep the hull and its contents intact, McCormick said.
The ship was originally a Dutch cutter that was captured by the British in 1795, and was then used for harassing Spanish and French shipping in the Caribbean.
The deBraak, which sank more than a mile off the coast of Cape Henlopen in 1798, is believed to hold $5 million to $500 million in treasure. Sub-Sal has been salvaging the ship since 1984 and has recovered about 600 gold and silver coins and marine artifacts.
The state, which is providing security for the venture, will receive 25 percent of the profits.
But disbursement of any treasure must await settlement of a federal lawsuit against Sub-Sal and its president, Harvey Harrington.
The suit, filed in Wilmington by Worldwide Salvage Inc. of Rhode Island, contends Harrington had an oral agreement to salvage the deBraak with Worldwide and share the profits. The suit seeks punitive damages to be set by the court and a share of the profits.