There’s not much of the earth that remains incognito—no source of the Nile left to find, no highest peak to climb for the first time, no pole that hasn’t been reached. But there are still discoveries to be made. A handful of Delawareans have dedicated their lives to some of the most interesting.
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Capone pays the bills by doing a lot of work for the U.S. Department of Defense and scientific projects for other government agencies, but he never passes up a chance to explore for something more challenging.
Capone got into The Explorers Club by finding boats from the French and Indian War on the bottom of Lake George in New York. He remains active in Bateau Below, the organization that continues to work on Lake George, and he’s helped with other archeological projects. He recently got a call to start looking for the Alligator Junior, a prototype of our country’s first wartime submarine, the Alligator. Both were built in Philadelphia in the mid-19th century, and the Alligator Junior spent some time in New Castle. It is thought to be lying in the Rancocas Creek near Camden, New Jersey.
Hess, of Wilmington, is also an underwater explorer, but he often searches the old fashioned way—by plunging into the murky depths wearing scuba gear. Hess took up scuba diving in high school. Diving in New Jersey’s Mullica River several years later, he found the wreck of a 200-year-old riverboat.
“During the Revolutionary War, crafty Continental privateers—a euphemism for pirates—would scamper out of the river and waylay British supply ships that were on their way to New York Harbor,” Hess says. “The munitions and supplies they captured were very important for our underfunded revolutionary army.” The find led to his membership in The Explorers Club.
Hess is a maritime attorney with expertise in the rights of salvers and preservationists. Treasure hunters have stepped up efforts to find shipwrecks, so there is increased legal wrangling between the salvers and the preservationists, who want to protect the wrecks and their riches. Hess consults with other club members on legal issues, and he regularly conducts field work to find other wrecks.
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