Severe weather, shoals, ship construction and military conflicts are some of the primary causes for ships to run aground, flounder and sink. Often, due to the impossibility or impracticality of salvaging by its owner(s), a vessel was abandoned and left to the ravages of 'Mother Nature' by the captain and crew.

In the past, when these incidents occurred, coastal residents were known to take advantage of the opportunity to scavenge the beach for lost cargo items. Also, when a ship ran aground and sank on a shoal, it was visible from the shore. If it was reachable by wading, swimming or a small boat, the vessel itself and any remaining cargo inside the hull were salvaged.

Featured in this online exhibit are stipple drawings of artifacts from a mercantile shipwreck located off the coast of Delaware: the 'Roosevelt Inlet Shipwreck.' Drawings of various artifacts are illustrated by artist Sharyn Murray, and are examples of cargo items lost in transit across the Atlantic in the late 1700s. Tragedy struck and these items never made it to market.

Artifacts of the Roosevelt Inlet shipwreck and The China Wreck are on exhibit at Legislative Hall in Dover, Delaware.