Here's what protects shipwrecks from looters and hacks
By George Dvorsky - Gizmodo
On May 25, 1798, the HMS DeBraak was entering Delaware Bay when a squall struck without warning. The British ship that originally belonged to the Dutch capsized and sank, taking 34 sailors and a dozen Spanish prisoners down with it.
Rumored to contain a hoard of gold and jewelry, the DeBraak became a popular target for treasure hunters in the years that followed. The wreck was finally discovered in 1986, lying under 80 feet of water at the mouth of the Delaware River.
The team who found the ship attempted to raise it from its watery grave, resulting in one of the worst archaeological disasters in modern history. The event precipitated the passing of long-overdue laws designed to prevent something like this from ever happening again.
Soon after the wreck of the DeBraak was found, treasure hunters speculated that it contained riches to the tune of $500 million, even though no evidence existed to support the claim.
The team who made the discovery formed a company called Sub-Sal Incorporated to conduct a salvage operation. Its divers eagerly scoured the wreck, pulling up a gold ring belonging to the ship’s captain, belt buckles, a cannon, a long-barreled pistol, two bottles of rum, scabbards, toothbrushes (sans bristles), a pewter spoon, and hundreds of other items.
The divers also recovered more than a hundred gold and silver coins, which they used as collateral for an $85,000 loan to keep the project afloat.