Photo Allison Breiner Potter
By Michelle Saxton - Lumina News
A state archaeologist from New Hanover County will help lead a dive this month to recover a large anchor and other artifacts from the pirate Blackbeard’s flagship that wrecked off the coast of North Carolina in 1718.
The remains of Queen Anne’s Revenge, a nearly 100-foot vessel with three masts and 40 cannons, is under about 23 feet of water near Beaufort, Mark Wilde-Ramsing, a deputy state archaeologist in Kure Beach and the project’s director, said Tuesday, May 17.
"Blackbeard was probably the most recognized, most notorious pirate of the Golden Age of Piracy, which was in the early 1700s," Wilde-Ramsing said.
His ship’s 13-foot wrought iron anchor is estimated to weigh about 3,000 pounds.
"It will be a great showpiece and something that should give us good attention now as we attempt to get interest and support to complete the excavations," Wilde-Ramsing said.
Sporting a gray T-shirt with "Save the Queen" on the back, Wilde-Ramsing joined other researchers and representatives from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Cape Fear Community College for a news conference Wednesday, May 18, at UNCW’s Center for Marine Science about the expedition.
UNCW’s research vessel The Cape Fear was being loaded up in preparation of the dive planned for May 23 to May 27. CFCC’s vessel, The Dan Moore, will help lift the anchor.
Also coming up, more than 350 artifact groups from Queen Anne’s Revenge will be on display in Beaufort starting June 11, North Carolina Maritime Museums Director Joe Schwarzer said.
Some artifacts previously recovered from the ship were on display during the news conference, including a sword quillon block, window glass and brass cufflink set.
"We’ll have enough to give viewers an idea of what life was like onboard QAR and to raise some interesting questions," Schwarzer said Wednesday,
May 18. "Why did Blackbeard scuttle the ship? Why didn’t he salvage it more completely?"
"It’s a very interesting period in colonial history," Schwarzer added. "We don’t have all the answers yet, but this exhibit will start to provide the public with a window on the past."
People are engaged in the subject of pirates, and an archaeological project of this significance can help boost tourism dollars, Cultural Resources Secretary Linda Carlisle said Wednesday.
"We want to get people to start up at Hatteras at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum and travel down the coast and visit at Beaufort and Wilmington and … down to Southport and being able to get the full story of North Carolina’s very rich, very diverse maritime history," Carlisle said.
Partnerships with universities and state and federal supporters have helped fund the project during the years, and Carlisle said they hope to gain private and community support as well in helping to raise about $100,000 to $200,000 a year, adding that the goal is to finish recovering artifacts by 2013.
As long as those artifacts are still underwater they are at risk of being lost during storms, Carlisle said.
Also, the artifacts could take months or years to be properly cleaned and preserved after being underwater for so long, and officials hope to have the most significant pieces ready for display by 2018 – the 300th anniversary of the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck.
Queen Anne’s Revenge had been the French slave ship La Concorde until pirates led by Blackbeard overtook it in 1717 and turned it into his battleship, Wilde-Ramsing said, adding that Blackbeard and his crew later blockaded Charleston in May 1718, taking about $500,000 worth of loot before heading to Beaufort.