As Karl Van Florcke sees it, the discovery of the centuries-old relics in the Delaware River was meant to be.
The captain of the Army Corps of Engineers dredge McFarland was working on the vessel last month when its pumps were turned off for the day - at the precise moment that a piece of the nation's history was vacuumed up with tons of muck and debris.
Less than 24 hours after the crew finished shipping-channel maintenance near Fort Mifflin in South Philadelphia, Van Florcke glanced up at the dredge's nine-foot-wide drag head and spotted something lodged in its grate.
"I was talking to my wife on a cell phone and told her, 'I think that's a cannonball,' " said Van Florcke, of Long Island, N.Y.
He climbed up to retrieve a 24-pound ball and found two other treasures six feet away on the other side of the drag head.
One was the rare tapered iron tip of a cheval-de-frise, the business end of a log once embedded in the river, along with many others, to gore the hulls of British warships that menaced Philadelphia in the mid-1770s.
It had been silently resting a few hundred yards from the fort.