State News

Blackbeard's cannon salvaged from shipwreck off NC

Posted October 26, 2011 6:49 a.m. EDT
Updated October 26, 2011 3:33 p.m. EDT

— 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.