Underwater explorers who've examined the wreck say their research indicates that it's the Notre Dame de Deliverance - a 166-foot, armed merchant vessel of French origin. The research includes surveys of the site by state-of-the-art remote sensing devices, ROV's and divers, a study of historical records, and the discovery that a few silver items - including a crucifix, plate and some coins - were brought up years ago by other salvagers. Recent underwater video footage is now being analyzed to determine the best procedure for recovery.
Greg Brooks and John Hardy of the Sub Sea Research states "It was one of the richest ships ever lost," they estimate the value of the Deliverance's trove could be between $2 billion and $3 billion. The Deliverance departed Havana on Halloween with an armed escort of seven or eight smaller, schooner-like vessels according to Brooks' research in Cuba and elsewhere. The ship soon met a fate that Brooks now believes was remarkably similar to what befell the Atocha and its hapless crew in surrounding waters 133 years earlier.
The hurricane struck the night after the ship left Havana, its eye passing over Havana to the southwest. The escorting ships reportedly were able to survive the storm and sailed across the outer reefs to eventually anchor on the northwest side of the Marquesas Keys to ride out the storm until the following morning, according to a research report prepared by Brooks and Sub Sea researcher Edward Michaud.
An incomplete manifest of the Deliverance cargo that was on board at the time of sinking declares those riches to include 17 chests packed with nearly 1,200 pounds of gold bullion, 15,000 gold doubloons, six chests of gems, and more than a million silver pieces. That doesn't count contraband or any valuable belongings of passengers.
Before he hunted sunken treasure, Brooks built swimming pools for a living. Over a decade ago, after 19 years in that business, he cashed out to find his fortune. Brooks' principal partner and fellow investor is John Hardy, a former National Aeronautics and Space Administration engineer who currently runs a La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery in South Portland.
Brooks says he's personally spent a million dollars so far in the hunt for treasure that he believes has led him to the Deliverance. He's helped make ends meet doing salvage work for insurance companies. Brooks, who is married and has an 18-year-old daughter, has plans to create a shipwreck museum and aquarium in Portland.
Sub Sea Research's primary recovery vessel is the 105-foot M/V Diamond, a converted U.S. Navy torpedo retriever that's currently docked on Stock Island near Key West.