Cannons Recovered from Site of Blackbeard’s Sunken Ship

For all you pirate aficionados out there…

Two weapons last touched by pirates almost 300 years ago surfaced from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean and are among new artifacts captured Friday in a dive expedition. Cannon balls, rigging gear and sounding weights encased in a cement-like shell were also recovered Monday from Blackbeard’s wrecked flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge (QAR).

Researchers from the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources’ Underwater Archeology Branch recovered two of the smaller cannons from the shipwreck. These would have been used for close firing at ships being pursued by Blackbeard’s pirate crew. This makes a total of 17 cannons that have been reclaimed from the wreck site near Beaufort. The rigging was part of the sail structure, and the sounding weights were used to determine the ocean depth.

Rough seas and rain showers did not dampen the determination or enthusiasm of the excavation team. “We are happy to retrieve two more guns as part of the fall season dive efforts,” says Project Director Billy Ray Morris.

The iron cannons weigh about 500 pounds each, unlike the pair of 2,000 pound cannons that were recovered in June. These smaller cannons could be raised and transported on the work boat, so another vessel for the lift was unneeded. The cannons and other artifacts will go directly to the QAR lab for conservation, a process that for cannons could take up to five years to remove salts from the iron and prevent deterioration or the metal flaking away. An extensive exhibit of QAR artifacts is at the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort.

Recovery of eight cannons was the plan for the earlier dive, but was prevented by unfavorable sea conditions. Four of the eight remain to be recovered. The researchers will work on the site through October, and hope to arrange for a larger boat to lift the heavier cannons. They also plan to make significant recovery of other artifacts, and full artifact recovery is planned for 2014.

The Queen Anne’s Revenge ran aground in Beaufort in June 1718. Intersal, Inc., a private research firm, discovered the site believed to be Queen Anne’s Revenge Nov. 21, 1996.

QAR was located near Beaufort Inlet, N.C., by Intersal’s director of operations, Mike Daniel, who used historical research provided by Intersal’s president, Phil Masters. Daniel now heads up Maritime Research Institute, the nonprofit corporation formed to work on the project in cooperation with state archaeologists and historians of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

For information please call (919) 807-7389. The Underwater Archaeology Branch and the N.C. Maritime Museum are within the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

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