Lab preserves Blackbeard’s treasures

Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge cannon

By Jeannine Manning Hutson

A few hours after underwater archaeologists plucked one of four large anchors from the wreck of Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge in the waters near Beaufort Inlet in May, a tourist looking at the encrusted artifact on a flatbed truck asked when it would be on display at a museum.

“Years” was the collective answer from QAR project team members standing nearby.

The answer would be the same for the approximately one-ton cannon raised Wednesday from the site. The cannon arrived Thursday at the QAR Conservation Lab at East Carolina University to begin the process of being saved for future generations.

Today the large anchor sits in a 6,500-gallon tank at the QAR Conservation Lab beside hundreds of other artifacts from the shipwreck site. Similar types of artifacts are submerged in tanks filled with sodium carbonate solutions, waiting to be conserved and prepared for display in the North Carolina Maritime Museum.

The Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard’s flagship, wrecked off the North Carolina coast in 1718. Initial fieldwork at the site under the direction of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources’ Underwater Archaeology Branch began in 1997, and it has progressed slowly and methodically.

The clock is ticking to pull artifacts from the wreckage. “We want to start bringing these pieces up off the main mound because we have a directive for three years to do full recovery as hard as we can, to get it all up. It’s about 50 percent of the site out there,” Mark Wilde-Ramsing, state underwater archaeologist, said in May as he stood by the newly hoisted anchor.

Wilde-Ramsing earned his doctorate in coastal resource management at ECU in 2009. He has directed the Queen Anne’s Revenge project since it began in 1997.

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