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Update on the Roosevelt Inlet Shipwreck Investigations

Miniature cup and saucer recovered from the shipwreck
Miniature cup and saucer recovered from the shipwreck
Mineral bottle as recovered from the shipwreck site
Mineral bottle as recovered from the shipwreck site

Archaeological Investigations Resume at Shipwreck Site

On September 25, 2006, the Delaware Department of State announced the resumption of offshore archaeological investigations at Lewes’ Roosevelt Inlet shipwreck site. The site, located a few-hundred yards off-shore from Lewes Beach, contains the remains of a British commercial vessel which sank in the 1770s.

Earlier this month, the Department of State engaged a professional underwater archaeology consultant, Southeastern Archaeological Research, Inc. of Jonesville, Florida, to undertake another phase of offshore investigations of the shipwreck site. The objective of this phase is to investigate the stern area of the ship where the captain’s quarters were probably located, and the amidships area where crew quarters and the ship’s galley would most likely have been situated. The investigation’s goal is to characterize the full range of cargo at the site, to seek information about the ship-board life of commercial seamen, and to provide information for the preservation and management of the shipwreck. The Department estimates that approximately sixty percent of the shipwreck site will remain after the current investigations. The shipwreck is property of the State of Delaware and access to the site is restricted.

History of the Lewes Shipwreck

In the fall of 2004, a sand replenishment project for Lewes Beach uncovered a previously unknown shipwreck located a few hundred yards offshore. Thousands of artifacts from the shipwreck site were pumped onto Lewes Beach and recovered by local residents, visitors, and Department of State archaeologists. To date, nearly 45,000 artifacts have been recovered from the beach. A total of 186 individuals and/or families have donated artifacts found on Lewes Beach to the Department’s Lewes Maritime Archaeology Project based at the University of Delaware’s College of Marine Studies. A team of underwater archaeologists under contract with the Army Corps of Engineers located the remains of the shipwreck site in April, 2005. The archaeologists determined that nearly eighty percent of the site was unaffected by dredging and that additional archaeological investigations would result in the discovery of significant information about this commercial ship and the time period in which she sailed.

The Lewes Maritime Archaeology Project is an initiative of the Delaware Department of State, administered by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs (HCA). HCA enhances Delaware’s quality of life by preserving the state’s unique historical heritage, fostering community stability and economic vitality, and providing educational programs and assistance to the general public on Delaware history and heritage. In addition to serving as the state’s historic preservation office, HCA operates eight museums and two conference centers, and manages over thirty historic properties across Delaware. Funding for HCA’s museums, programs, and services is provided by annual appropriations from the Delaware General Assembly, revenue from HCA’s History Stores, and grants from the National Park Service, a federal agency.

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