Work begins to preserve QAR artifacts on ocean's floor

BY Jannette Pippin - JD

The latest efforts to preserve artifacts from the shipwreck presumed to be Queen Anne’s Revenge never left the sea floor.

Staff from the N.C. Underwater Archaeology Branch conducted a three-day expedition at the QAR site this week and focused on a new “in situ” method of conservation that begins the process while artifacts are still on the ocean’s bottom.

Skinny aluminum rods called sacrificial anodes were attached to several anchors and a cannon to change the electrochemical process that corrodes iron in saltwater, reducing or even reversing the amount of salts absorbed by the iron objects, said QAR Project Director Mark Wilde Ramsing.

He said they’ve tested the process and it seems to be working. And by beginning conservation under water, they can potentially save time and space at the conservation lab.

In the lab, it can take up to five years to remove salts from a large cannon using electrolysis.

“Hopefully this will reduce the time by several years,” Wilde Ramsing said. “It’s a fairly experimental and if nothing else, it will help to stop the artifacts from continuing to corrode.”

During the expedition, the QAR team was also filmed by a French crew doing a documentary about pirates.

Wilde Ramsing said they are now looking ahead to a push to get all the artifacts out of the water, properly preserved and ready for public display. Backing the efforts are a new Friends of QAR, a nonprofit organization established to provide funding for the shipwreck project, and a new strategic plan for moving the project toward its end goal.

Wilde Ramsing said N.C. Department of Cultural Resources Secretary Linda Carlisle has declared an initiative to get all the shipwreck’s artifacts up over the next four years.

With a fall dive planned for this year, they are looking at finishing field work by 2013, he said.

Queen Anne's Revenge archaeology museum

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