By Jerry Allegood
MCT NEWS SERVICE
March 8, 2007
Ten years of research has led to the “inescapable conclusion” that a shipwreck near Beaufort, N.C., is the flagship of Blackbeard the pirate, a historian said.
Lindley Butler, historian for the Queen Anne's Revenge project, said the size of the sunken ship, the number of guns it carried and the artifacts recovered from the site strengthen the connection to the pirate. Historical records indicate that Blackbeard sank the Queen Anne's Revenge off the North Carolina coast in 1718.
Thousands of artifacts have been recovered since a private company, Intersal Inc., discovered the wreck near Beaufort Inlet in November 1996. But some scientists have questioned the claim that the wreck can be conclusively linked to the pirate, whose real name was believed to be Edward Thatch or Teach.
State officials reviewed the research during a conference at the North Carolina Museum of History. Butler said a coin weight recovered last October was particularly compelling evidence. The small copper disc, an item used to determine the weight of coins and gold, bears a likeness of Britain's Queen Anne, who reigned in 1702-1714.
“This is the most exciting artifact to me,” Butler said. “You can't get any better than putting Queen Anne on the Queen Anne's Revenge.”
He also said the shipwreck contains at least 25 cannons, the kind of armament a pirate ship would carry. And, he said, it was larger than the vessels that would normally be sailing around Beaufort.
Other researchers said the recovery of iron shackles link the vessel to the slave trade and to Blackbeard. The pirate captured a French slave ship, La Concorde, in 1717 and renamed it the Queen Anne's Revenge.
Richard Lawrence, head of the state's underwater archaeology office, said that the coin weight, a drinking glass, a bell and dates on a cannon have been connected to the early 1700s.
Lawrence said the state is planning additional excavation to recover material threatened by wave action.
“We feel the site is endangered because of the natural erosion,” he said.
Mark Wilde-Ramsing, director of the Queen Anne's Revenge project, said about 15 percent of the material on the ocean floor has been recovered. He said the remains were covered and protected by sand for centuries, but now the site is losing 6 inches of sand a year.
Some artifacts have been disturbed by waves, he said, and contemporary junk, including a golf ball, has been found among the debris.
“It's time to get it up,” he said.
Wilde-Ramsing said the state is planning a series of excavations over the next three years to recover the rest of the material.