My shipwreck expedition, which is actually a joint-venture funded by Galleon Quest (a crypto-currency company, which is securing its tokens with shipwreck artifacts and treasure), has run into, but has overcome, some extremely tough problems: starting with the loss of my wife (Lauren McEntire Spence), due to a tragic accident at the very beginning of the expedition, to unavoidable delays caused by hurricane Florence, which roiled the seas and dumped millions of cubic feet of water on the Carolinas resulting in flood waters that carried uncounted tons of trash and silt into the ocean, temporarily destroying visibility around the wrecks. But the expedition is already well underway and we are very excited at what we’ve accomplished so far.
We are working a cluster of shipwrecks that I (Dr. E. Lee Spence) discovered around a dangerous shoal located well over three nautical miles from the nearest shore. I am fortunate in that after filing a claim in U.S. District Court to literally everything on them, their hulls, ballast, cargoes, passenger’s effects, artifacts, treasures, under both the law of salvage and the law of finds, I was able to obtain the judge’s order recognizing me as the exclusive owner of the wrecks.
Our first finds were made using Sea Research Society’s research vessel Sea Survey. Those artifacts came from a merchant ship that was probably built in the 18th Century and which appears to have been wrecked in the late 1790s or early 1800s.
They ranged from lengths of fine gold chain to pieces of ormolu, which is gold leaf over bronze and was used to decorate everything from mantle clocks, to candelabra and furniture. From an 1850s shipwreck, we recovered a rare glass deck prism, which was used to let sunlight into the areas below deck. While we still have a tremendous amount of work to do on that wreck, many of the finds made so far are very exciting, unique and valuable. We also found lots of brass spikes and large pins, which had once fastened the wooden hull and timbers of that ship together. That wreck has been tentatively identified, and when its name, ownership, and history is finally released, I expect it to make international news.
I quickly realized that there was far more work than could be accomplished by just one boat. So, with Galleon Quest’s advance approval, I entered into an agreement with Dan Porter’s company, Maritime Research and Recovery LLC. Dan brought up the research vessel Seatrepid manned by Captain Levin Shavers, Rob Hill, and Missy Parker. Dan and I have both been working with them.
To date, most of the work done with the R/V Seatrepid has been on my late 1790s wreck. Working from the Seatrepid, we have recovered numerous bronze crucifixes in several different sizes and designs; brass thimbles, some of which were apparently gold plated and others silver plated; Cannon balls; muskets balls; musket parts; an intact brass syringe and a still stoppered pewter medicinal vial used for treating STDs; pewter plates and spoons; and an extremely rare, “Lover’s Eye” gold locket with almost iridescent black pearls, just to name some of the more interesting artifacts.
Although we have been focusing on these wrecks first, we are not ignoring the numerous additional wrecks of historic and monetary value that I have the rights to around the shoal. We are already mapping the artifact scatter from some of those other wrecks, which will help us decide which ones to target next. In the mean time, I am extremely pleased with what is coming up.
ADDENDUM: The numerous brass thimbles we have found are an exciting find because, in one of my company’s dives prior to getting involved with Galleon Quest, we had found a single gold thimble (shown above) that I was convinced was part of a cargo bound to a jeweler. I had once read an early advertisement by a jeweler offering thousands of brass, silver and gold thimbles for sale that had just arrived aboard a ship. I believe the many brass thimbles we have been finding support my conclusion that the gold one we found was just one of many that the ship carried.
My research on the wrecks lost around the shoal includes an account of one carrying a “considerable sum of money.” Another vessel, which I have positively identified, was the SS Ozama, which had been involved in smuggling and had previously carried extremely large amounts of money. Still others had rich and valuable cargos. So, I am excited to finally be properly investigating the wrecks that I have already found.