The Lure of Treasure: Shipwrecks of the Delaware Coast

The Lore of Treasure from Shipwrecks of the Delaware Coast To Lure Attendees To Lewes Historical Society Meeting April 21

Tankards and bottles and ship's bells and fittings.
Clay shards and china and coins, jars and rigging.
Finds from the deep once belonging to kings.
These are a few of my favorite things...

If he could put his enthusiasm for maritime history into song, Dale Clifton would probably include lyrics such as these to recite what he regards as his "favorite things." Clifton, an inveterate treasure hunter and devoted maritime historian, will be the featured speaker with his presentation, "Shipwrecks of the Delaware Coast" will focus on three key shipwrecks that have inspired his quest to unravel the mystery and history of shipwreck lore along the Atlantic and beyond. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday April 21 at the new Lewes Public Library, 111 Adams Avenue, Lewes.

According to Clifton, a Milton native, the shoaling Delaware coastline claimed hundreds of sailing vessels over a 300-year period from the early 17th century to the turn of the 20th century. From these disasters, Clifton has amassed a collection of maritime artifacts and developed a wealth of maritime history that is the focus of his Shipwreck Museum in Fenwick Island. "I became interested in the lure of discovering treasure along the one-mile stretch of beach from Indian River inlet north known as Coin Beach. As a 14-year old I dreamed of finding a copper coin from the ill-fated Irish ship The Faithful Servant." Eventually he did find one of those copper coins. Today he has more than 200,000 of them. Although these "ballast coins" are not highly prized or valued, Clifton gleans a lot of history from their discovery. "I once dived on a wreck and found a small leather shoe and nearby was a porcelain doll's head. You could speculate that the doll was in the clutches of a small child who perished when the ship met its doom. From a historic perspective it was much more valuable than finding gold or jewels."

The Shipwreck Museum's exhibits include a wide array of historical artifacts from a silver coin made in 1641 to honor of King Philip of Spain (only three are known to exist) to a camera and film from the RMS Republic which wrecked in 1909. He recovered the film and salvaged three negatives from which he made prints showing the ship's exercise room, dining facilities and the interior of one of the ship's cabins. Clifton waxes enthusiastic when he talks about maritime archeology: "The thrill of discovery is so much different than earth-based digs because when an archeologist unearths an artifact it is usually layered by generations of activity and a diversity of cultures." He says that "with maritime discovery, you often find a time capsule. A moment frozen in time, an event captured forever as it was, when it was. It speaks volumes of how folks lived. It reveals their accomplishments, their failures, their culture."

Admission is free and no reservations are required. For more information, call 302-645-7670 or visit www.historiclewes.org.

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Lewes