State News

Blackbeard's cannon salvaged from shipwreck off NC

Posted October 26, 2011

— Researchers have raised a 2,000-pound cannon from the wreck of the pirate Blackbeard's ship, which has been on the ocean floor off the North Carolina coast for nearly 300 years.

The Queen Anne's Revenge Project brought the massive gun ashore Wednesday. Onlookers cheered as the eight-foot-long gun was raised above the water's surface.

The project is named after the flagship and has been working since 1997 to salvage artifacts from the wreck.

The gun was on public display Wednesday in front of the state Maritime Museum in Beaufort before being taken to a laboratory at East Carolina University for further study.

After nearly three centuries underwater, the cannon has become encased in a cement-like shell of sand, salt and aquatic creatures. It could take years for researchers to learn exactly what the shell contains, in addition to the cannon.

"It's like Christmas," project director Mark Wilde-Ramsing said. "During an earlier expedition, one of the concretions actually held two cannons and lots of attachments that resembled nuts. We called that one Baby Ruth."

Twelve other recovered cannons have yielded gun flints, a sounding weight, crystal wine glass fragment and shackles.

"Four cannons were all found to be loaded, with cannon shot and wads in place ready to be fired," said Sarah Watkins-Kenney, the project's chief conservator.

Other, less dramatic finds can also aid researchers.

"Remains of rope wrapped around the muzzle of a cannon are also intriguing," Watkins-Kenney said. "Materials as fragile as rope rarely survive, so finding this vindicated the cleaning used to carefully excavate the concretion layers, rather than just knock it off to reveal the cannon."

Three recovered cannons from Blackbeard's ship are on display at the Maritime Museum in Beaufort, one at the Museum of the Albermarle in Elizabeth City and one at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh.

The Queen Anne's Revenge sank in 1718 after running into a sand bar off Beaufort Inlet. Edward Teach, who took the name Blackbeard, was killed about five months later when he was trapped off Ocracoke by British warships leased by the colonial governor of Virginia to find him.

Intersal, a private research company, found the wreckage of the Queen Anne's Revenge in November 1996 after a decade of matching together witness reports and nautical charts in North Carolina, American and European archives.

The state Department of Cultural Resources, Marine Fisheries Unit and ECU have been working since 1997 to recover the wreckage and artifacts, all of which belong to the state.

43 Comments

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  • alwayslovingu30 Oct 26, 7:00 p.m.

    How much did the cost tax payers with them knowing all these years it was just sitting there.

  • Calypso Oct 26, 6:04 p.m.

    @ Wendellcatlover: They’ve pulled up thousands of artifacts since the wreck was located originally. The entire operation is at the mercy of the ocean state, weather state, and funding. As an example, this was the last dive of the year for the QAR salvage team. They had two weeks, and the sea state prevented safe diving on all but a few days, so they extended the dive from this past Friday until today with the goal of retrieving this cannon. These things aren’t laying around loose on the ocean floor just waiting to be picked up – the majority of large artifacts are partly embedded into the ocean floor by the concretizations, and it takes considerable study to determine how to separate the concretizations from the floor without damaging them or any other smaller artifacts that may be within the concretization. The goal is to protect and preserve, not to get it all up as fast as possible.

  • Calypso Oct 26, 6:03 p.m.

    Cont'd @pgordon, cantstandgoloanymore, and EverythingTicksMeOff: the number and origin of cannon recovered to date; the fact that some cannon were loaded with shrapnel in addition to cannon-shot (a tactic used only by pirates); and the fact that no artifacts have been found that date later than 1718 have provided near-conclusive proof that the ship is indeed QAR.

  • Calypso Oct 26, 6:02 p.m.

    @pgordon, cantstandgoloanymore, and EverythingTicksMeOff: Only two ships wrecked in that inlet between 1709 and 1724 – Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge and Adventure in June 1718. The QAR was a 200-ton, 100-ft. ship with between 24 and 36 cannon, according to various eyewitness reports. No other ship near that size was reported to have attempted to enter that inlet during the time period in question. She was a former French slaver that spent time in the Caribbean. After Blackbeard captured her, he then captured, looted, and took on board cannon, weapons, and plunder from other ships. Ships in the 1700s were rarely marked as to their identity; a marked bell was an exception, not a rule. The origin of ballast rocks (French, African, and Caribbean); the size of the wreck debris trail; the origin of simple goods such as wine bottles, glasses, and plates; the carbon dates and origins of the hull wood; the presence of gold dust (a rare cargo but known to have been aboard the Q

  • cantstandgoloanymore Oct 26, 4:23 p.m.

    EverythingTicksMeOff - you are quite right. The bell that was retrieved had a date imprint of 1705 which was neither the date the ship was originally built (1710) nor any other date having to do with the ship itself. The likelihood of there being any definitive markings with name Queen Anne's Revenge is near nil. Markings of the ships original name will be more likely or one of the ships known to have been captured/pillaged by the QER might possibly be on some of the artifacts only.

  • Uhavenoclu Oct 26, 4:21 p.m.

    8 foot canons aren't massive,go to any civil war site and see real canons.

  • Wendellcatlover Oct 26, 4:09 p.m.

    I understand taking your time to salvage fragile artifacts, but 14 years...really?

  • EverythingTicksMeOff Oct 26, 3:05 p.m.

    moppie, it is sooooo unlikely that the cannon will have the name etched on it. This was a pirate ship. It was fitted with cannons seized in battle from other ships. They have stated that this ship did indeed carry a wide variety of different types of cannons. And I doubt a pirate is going to take the time to have the ship's name etched onto any cannons they take as plunder.

  • dkjeffers Oct 26, 2:46 p.m.

    @EverythingTicksMeOff: Ha! Good point!

  • americaneel Oct 26, 2:43 p.m.

    moppie...Ill bet you are the life of the party with all those Blackbeard stories. I thought it was called Topsail because the tops of the houses looked like a sailor?

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