Cape Gazette
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Fenwick treasure interpreter to present The Archeology of Shipwrecks of the Atlantic Coast April 18 at LHS

Apr 13, 2014

Shipwrecks speak to Dale Clifton. The long-time treasure “interpreter” and shipwreck diver will tell the tales of shipwrecks off the Atlantic coast and beyond when he presents “The Archeology and History of Shipwrecks” at the Lewes Historical Society Friday, April 18 program. His presentation will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Lewes Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall, Kings Highway, Lewes.

Clifton, the founder and curator of the Discovery Sea and Shipwreck Museum in Fenwick Island, has been seeking and preserving historic artifacts for nearly 40 years. He says that “when artifacts are discovered from a sunken ship they tell a story. It’s not so much the worth or the value of the treasure in dollars but what we can learn from the artifact that’s important.”

His museum is filled with such things as a camera and rolls of film found on a the wreck of the RMS Republic that sank in 1907. The film lay beneath the sea bed for decades preserving the film. Using a modern digital process, he was able to recover three historic images that were taken onboard the ill-fated ship.

His presentation will delve into the many things that can be learned from recovered artifacts. “Treasure such as a gold bar may be worth a lot of money, but that bar may ask ‘How was it refined? Where was the mercury found that was used to process the bar?’ ”

He cites another recent find of several large bags of raw peanuts found in a wreck off the coast of Virginia. “The peanuts in canvas sacks lay in a cocoon of mud devoid of light and oxygen. They were preserved undisturbed in their original condition when the cargo ship sank in 1724. We were able to eat some of the peanuts and we even plant some which could result in a hybrid cross-breed variety that could possibly be eaten by people allergic to today’s peanut varieties.”

Clifton says that in recent years it has become important to interpret what the artifacts may reveal about past cultures and manufacturing processes as well. He notes that museums in Spain, England and Ireland have asked his museum to investigate and interpret a variety of artifacts recovered from sunken ships to provide important details as to their origin and use.

The public is cordially invited to attend the presentation which will include a display of several artifacts recovered from Davy Jones’ Locker. Light refreshments will be served following the presentation. For more information on The Lewes Historical Society go to http://www.historiclewes.org.

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