Lester Bell, in the white hard hat, directs the placement of a cannon recovered Thursday from the wreck of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the flagship of the infamous 18th-century pirate Blackbeard. Mitchel Gilliland, in the yellow hardhat and sunglasses, is helping guide the cannon, which is attached to a large inflatable lift-bag. Bell and other crewmen were positioning the cannon aboard the R/V Dan Moore, a research vessel operated by Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, North Carolina. Marine Technology students at CFCC are working with underwater archaeologists from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources to recover artifacts from Blackbeard’s ship. Two cannons, each weighing about one ton, were hauled aboard the Dan Moore Thursday before seas became too rough to continue the operation.
The Queen Anne’s Revenge was one of the most heavily armed pirate vessels afloat in the early 18th century. During his brief but colorful career, Blackbeard used the vessel to plunder shipping from the Caribbean Sea to the coast of colonial America, daring to hold the city of Charleston, South Carolina hostage in exchange for ransom. The Queen Anne’s Revenge ran aground in 1718 a few miles offshore from Beaufort (see map) on the southern coast of North Carolina. Historians think Blackbeard might have deliberately grounded the ship so he could keep the most valuable swag from his exploits for himself.
Shanna Daniel, of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources and lead conservator for the Queen Anne’s Revenge excavation project, talks to reporters and photographers aboard the R/V Dan Moore after the cannon next to her was recovered Thursday from the wreck of the flagship of the infamous pirate Blackbeard.
Although Blackbeard’s career as a pirate lasted only about two years, he is perhaps history’s most famous pirate. Historians think he may have intended to end his high-seas plundering when he ran the Queen Anne’s Revenge aground in 1718. The pirate, whose real name may have been Edward Teach or Edward Thatch, lived briefly in Bath, one of North Carolina’s colonial capitals. He curried favor with the colonial governor and residents of Bath by generously spending his loot in the town. But colonial officials outside North Carolina were determined to bring him to justice, and he was killed in a battle with the British navy off Ocracoke Island, North Carolina in November 1718.
Willie Drye has been writing about hurricanes and other topics for National Geographic News since 2003. Visit his blog, Drye Goods.