David V. Beard
H.M.S. DEBRAAK: A TREASURE DEBUNKED, A TREASURE REVEALED.
(Under the direction of Dr. William N. Still, Jr.) Department of History, July 1989.
The purpose of this study is to document the history, salvage and architecture of the brig-of -war H.M.S. Debraak. Since the day that she sank in a sudden squall off the coast of Delaware on May 25, 1798 a legend of an immense treasure filling her holds has been widely circulated. As could have been expected, such a legend would attract those who would have this treasure for their own. Between 1984 and 1986 a Reno, Nevada-based commercial salvage firm, Sub-Sal, Inc., excavated the vessel's wreck site. These operations climaxed on August 11, 1986 with the raising of DeBraak’s articulated hull remains, and the subsequent clamshelling of the site to recover artifacts.
No substantial treasure was recovered from the ship, but the project did generate a considerable amount of outrage among the archeological community due to the damage sustained by DeBraak’s hull and many of its associated artifacts. This outrage may have directly encouraged the passage of the Abandoned Shipwrecks Act of 1988, which in previous years had failed to pass in the United States Congress.
The author was employed by the state of Delaware from 1985 through 1988. His responsibilities included monitoring the salvage operations, mapping the wreck site, artifact processing, researching the ship's history, and, finally, documenting the architecture of DeBraak’s hull remains.