Local News

Blackbeard's Pirate Flagship Believed Found

Posted March 3, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST
Updated September 23, 2010 10:48 a.m. EDT

— A private research company has discovered what it believes is Blackbeard's flagship nearly three centuries after the infamous English pirate's ship sank, state archivists said Monday.

``When we found it, it was exposed in only about 20 feet of water,'' said Mike Daniel of Intersal Inc., who discovered the wreck within sight of land last November. ``If you could have seen through that dirty water, it was right there.''

The search has not yet proved that the wreck is Queen Anne's Revenge, the flagship of Edward Teach, who took the name of Blackbeard, said Jeffrey Crow, the director of the state Division of Archives and History. But circumstantial evidence points that way, he said.

``We've not found the smoking blunderbuss yet, but we have found enough artifacts to make us think this may be Queen Anne's Revenge,'' Crowe said at a news conference.

A blunderbuss barrel was one of the artifacts brought up from the wreckage, along with a bronze bell dated 1709, a 24-pound cannonball and a sounding weight.

Queen Anne's Revenge sank in 1718 after running onto a sand bar off Beaufort Inlet. So did the Adventure, a sloop in Blackbeard's pirate fleet that went to her aid.

The wreck site within sight of Fort Macon is dominated by ``a mound of cannons'' encrusted with coral, Daniel said. Queen Anne's Revenge is thought to have carried up to 40 cannons, and their position on the bottom is consistent with a ship that ran aground and tipped to one side, he said.

Phil Masters, the president of Intersal, said the discovery ended a decade of research he had done in American and European archives, including the North Carolina archives.

``The key document ... was a deposition published in a book in London in 1759,'' Masters said. The deposition by an eyewitness to the sinking ``gave a clear indication the QAR was stuck on the outer bar trying to get into Beaufort inlet.''

Intersal collected hundreds of old nautical charts for the Beaufort channel in plotting where to find the wreck.

The cannon mound includes remnants of nets and fishing line, indicating that the wreck has been exposed for some time. But a small amount of wood also is exposed, indicating that last summer's hurricanes may have shifted some of the sand around it.

Hundreds of scuba divers have traveled over the wreck, heading for other shipwrecks farther out at sea.

``There really hasn't been much diving around the site because of the murky water,'' said Masters. Visibility ranges from 1 to 10 feet, depending on the weather, he said.

The wreck site and an area 300 yards around it were declared off-limits to boats and divers Monday.

During his research, Masters said he became fascinated with Teach, who cultivated a savage image and draped himself with numerous pistols, daggers and swords.

``What an amazing man,'' Masters said. ``Much of what you've read about him is fiction.

``He created a menacing image. He talked with everyone he met about being in league with the devil, that he was the devil's brother,'' Master said. ``Blackbeard, to me, was the first great practitioner of psychological warfare.''

Records do not indicate he killed anyone until Nov. 22, 1718, when he was trapped off Ocracoke by British warships that had been leased by the colonial governor of Virginia to find him.

Teach was shot, stabbed and his throat slashed before he finally was killed. His head was cut off and hung from the bowspirt of one of the British ships.

Intersal stopped diving as soon as the wreck was found to protect the archaeological integrity of the site, Masters said. All of the artifacts will be kept by the state.

Intersal expects to recoup the $300,000 it spent locating the wreck through book and film rights, and possibly through making molds of relics and selling reproductions.

``Your imagination tends to run wild on you when you think about Blackbeard,'' said Gov. Jim Hunt, who helped announce the find. ``Of course, it can't run very wild because much of it was real.''

By DENNIS PATTERSON,Associated Press Writer Copyright ©1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed.