Saving cannons with electrolysis at Blackbeard shipwreck site

By Scott Pickey - Wwaytv3

Three hundred years on the ocean floor can be pretty rough on a body.

The Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources will dedicate its fall dive to treating some large bodies of iron in the Atlantic Ocean. Researchers, from Sept. 22-Oct. 29, will be on wreck site of the likely Queen Anne’s Revenge (QAR), Blackbeard’s flagship, which sank in 1718 near Beaufort.

They will try to change the electrochemical process that corrodes iron in saltwater by applying anodes, skinny aluminum rods, to the objects as they are in situ (in the original place).

A dozen cannons, 6 feet to 8 feet long and weighing 700 pounds to 1 ton, will undergo the treatment. So will three large anchors, 11 feet to 13 feet long and weighing an estimated 1,800 pounds.

“It’s imperative that we stop the damaging effects of salt water on these treasures,” says QAR Archaeological Field Director Chris Southerly. “This is a good alternative to help stabilize them when in laboratory space is not available.”

The archaeologists will work in the mid-ship area and are completing full recovery at the shipwreck site. To date, more than 700,000 artifacts have been recovered.

Many are undergoing conservation at the QAR Conservation Laboratory at East Carolina University in Greenville. Others are exhibited at the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort, the repository for QAR artifacts.

Water and wind conditions will affect greatly the on-site work. Ocean swells can delay diving, and already Hurricanes Igor and Julia are roiling the seas. Currently the water temperature of a favorable 79° is more appealing than the 10° cooler of late October.

The shipwreck was located in 1996 by Intersal, Inc. of Florida by Operations Director Mike Daniel through research provided by Intersal president Phil Masters.


Queen Anne's Revenge Carteret County coast N.C. Department of Cultural Resources North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort QAR project