For more than 20 years a unique artifact of Delaware history has been hidden away. Researchers and staff from Delaware's' Historical and Cultural Affairs have been the only ones fortunate enough to spend time with the hull of a ship dating back to England's Mad King, King George III.
It's stored in a building in Cape Henlopen State Park where an intensive restoration effort is under way.
But beginning Monday, June 4, the public will have the opportunity for the first time to visit the historic hull of His Majesty’s Sloop DeBraak, which capsized and was lost May 25, 1798, off Cape Henlopen point. It would remain buried 80 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean for more than 200 years. When it capsized, the British warship was escorting and protecting a convoy of British and American merchant ships en route to the United States.
Back in 1984 when the ship was discovered, it attracted international attention. Salvage operations took place between 1984 and 1986, but it wasn't until 1992 that the state purchased the hull and collection of more than 20,000 artifacts.
The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will offer public lectures and tours of the hull – which are limited to 10 persons per program – at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the following Mondays: June 4, 11 and 25: July 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30; Aug. 6, 13, 20 and 27: Sept. 10, 17 and 24; and Oct. 1.
Programs begin at the Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, where a lecture will be presented on the history of the ship and some artifacts will be on display. Ticket holders will then be transported via van to the hull site at Cape Henlopen State Park.
Nonrefundable tickets for the 2 ½ hour program are $10 per person for those 10 years of age and above. Tickets – which go on sale Saturday, May 26 – are available at http://history.delaware.gov.
On Oct. 5, 2011, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs convened a team to begin conservation of DeBraak's hull. The division has curated the remains of the ship's hull and associated collection of artifacts since they were acquired by the state in 1992. Since that time, division staff has been charged with watering down the hull every day to maintain its integrity.
See more in the Friday, June 1 edition of the Cape Gazette.