Thursday, October 18, 2007

The mystery may unravel

In November 1717, English pirates captured the French slave ship La Concorde near the island of Martinique. She was renamed Queen Ann's Revenge and headed north the following spring as the flagship of the pirate fleet.

In May 1718, the pirates, led by Blackbeard, aka Edward Teach, blockaded the port of Charleston SC with his flagship and three smaller sloops. He continued up the coast and lost his the Queen Ann's Revenge while attempting to enter Beaufort Inlet NC and about five months after her sinking, Blackbeard was killed in battle at Ocracoke NC.

In November 1996, the private research firm, Intersal Inc., was winding down their search for shipwrecks in Beaufort Inlet when they discovered a mound of anchors, cannons and ballast stones. They had held permits from the North Carolina UBA to search for the El Salvador, which was lost in 1750 and the Queen Ann's Revenge. The Intersal divers recovered some artifacts including a brass bell which had the date of 1705 on it and they felt that they had possibly found the site of the QAR. After months of secrecy, they finally announced that they may have found Blackbeard's flagship.

The QAR lies in 20 to 25 feet of water approximately 1.5 nautical miles off Fort Macon and about 1,500 feet west of the present Inlet shipping channel. Studies have shown that the channel may have crossed over the ship numerous times in the three hundred years it has sat there and has spent time buffeted by currents or covered by 20 feet of sand.

Since it's discovery, numerous trips have been made to uncover artifacts on the site and map the wrecks location. It is offlimits to divers at this time but in the future, when all work has been completed, it will most likely be available for divers to visit.

This years visit is considered it's most ambitious and has already uncovered more artifacts to study and later display at the NC Maritime Museum at Gallants Bay, Beaufort NC. Items brought to the surface this year include copper alloy cufflinks and straight pin, net weights, pewter plates, a brass trigger guard, gold dust, a yellow glass bead and on one return trip to shore......a five foot spotted eagle ray which leaped aboard the deck of the Shell Point.

After much careful planning, this week they also raised cannon C16, under the watchful eye of a group of reporters from TV, newspapers and radio as well as a German documentary filmaker and a writer and photographer from Archaeology Magazine. On October 17 2007, the cannon made a schedualed stop at the NC Maritime Museum expansion property for another public viewing, which was attended by approximately 100 people.

The cannon will then be taken to the QAR in Greenville NC and placed in a freshwater tank where it will begin a multi-year process of cleaning, study and preparation for display. This cannon is believed to be one of the best links to proving whether the wreck that has been studied for ten years is Blackbeard's famous flagship, the Queen Ann's Revenge.

For more about the Queen Ann's Revenge project, go here.

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