DOVER, DEL., JULY 13 -- The crew that lifted the remains of the 18th-century HMS deBraak from the floor of Delaware Bay nearly a year ago was expecting up to $500 million in gold and silver.
Instead it wound up with artifacts -- enough of them to fill a large museum.
The raising of the ship that sank off the coast of Cape Henlopen in May 1798 resulted in the recovery of 500 gold and silver coins and a collection of artifacts including ceramics, glass, shoes, clothing and cannons.
Who will get them and at what price, and where they will be stored, has not been decided.
The artifacts are owned by the New England-based Drew Associates, the salvaging company that sank $2.5 million into the project to raise the deBraak last August and scour the bay floor for treasure.
Delaware has put $115,000 of taxpayers' money into the project, to pay an underwater archaeologist to document the ship's hull and to store the artifacts and the hull at an industrial complex in Lewes, Secretary of State Michael E. Harkins said in a recent interview.
L. John Davidson, Drew Associates president, said he wants to give the collection to the state, although the original agreement was for the state to receive a sampling of the artifacts and 25 percent of the profits of the treasure that did not materialize.
"We're in sort of a holding pattern waiting for the state to decide on how we can work it out," said Davidson.
"Our desire is to transfer the artifacts to the state and have them build a museum to accommodate them."
Davidson wants a "wholesale cost transfer" to the state to avoid paying federal taxes on what he is not permitted to write off.
"We want the state to have it at the least cost possible -- not at what it cost to get it, but what it cost to transfer it," Davidson said.
He said, though, that such a transfer could cost the state $1 million to $2 million in taxes.
Harkins claimed ignorance of the federal tax problems and possible costs to the state. He said he plans to meet with Davidson this week while attending a meeting in Boston.