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Halloween Booty: Blackbeard’s Guns

Thursday, October 31, 2013

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In a move unlikely to cheer Blackbeard’s ghost, the U.S. Coast Guard has recovered five cannons and multiple barrel hoops from the 18th-century pirate's shipwreck off the North Carolina coast.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Smilax worked with personnel from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources to recover the booty from the Queen Anne's Revenge on Monday (Oct. 28) in Beaufort Inlet, NC.

The crew of the Smilax, a 100-foot inland construction tender, worked with NCDCR divers to lift the cannons aboard the Smilax using a combination of flotation bags and the ship's crane.

Queen Anne's Revenge salvage Queen Anne's Revenge salvage
Images unless indicated: U.S. Coast Guard

Crews from the USCG Cutter Smilax and NC's Department of Cultural Resources haul in a cannon from the Queen Anne's Revenge.

Four of the cannons weigh 2,000 pounds each; the fifth weighs about 3,000 pounds, NC DCR said in an announcement this week.

Pirate of the Caribbean

The Queen Anne's Revenge was the last ship of the pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard.

The French merchant ship, then bearing 26 guns, was known as the Concorde when Teach took her over in 1717, according to realhaunts.com.

Renamed and newly outfitted with 40 cannons, the Queen Anne's Revenge became the flagship of Blackbeard's four-vessel pirate fleet, according to history.com.

Queen Anne's Revenge salvage

The mission was the largest single recovery of the ship's 40 cannons; 20 have been salvaged.

Blackbeard, who took his name from the long beard he reportedly lit on fire to intimidate enemies, had terrorized the  Caribbean and southern coast of North America for several years by the time he seized the Queen Anne's Revenge.

He ran the ship throughout the region for a year. In May 1718, however, the Queen Anne's Revenge was shipwrecked, along with another of the pirate's vessels. Six months later, a British naval force led by Lt. Robert Maynard defeated Blackbeard's forces and killed the pirate in a battle off Ocracoke, NC.

Legend has it that Maynard's forces cut off Blackbeard's head, which continued to shriek when it was publicly displayed, while his headless corpse swam around the bloodied waters.

Cannon Catch

All of the ship's cast-iron cannons fired six-pound cannon balls, North Carolina officials said. This is the largest recovery of the ship's cannons yet, bringing to 20 the total number recovered, officials said. Twenty-nine guns have been located.

The U.S. Coast Guard released this video of the salvage mission with crews from North Carolina's Department of Cultural Resources' Underwater Archaeology Division.

“We think the largest of the four cannons may be of Swedish origin, since the only other recovered gun this size was made in Sweden,” Project Director Billy Ray Morris said in a statement.

“We also hope to recover two large concretions each the size of a twin bed. They may contain barrel hoops, cannon balls and other treasures.”

Blackbeard is known to have gathered a hodge-podge of cannons from different countries as he equipped his vessel with 40 guns, officials said.

Capture of Blackbeard
Wikimedia Commons / Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

The 1920 painting Capture of the Pirate, Blackbeard, 1718, captures the fateful battle between the legendary Edward Teach and the British forces led by Lt. Robert Maynard.

To date, the Underwater Archaeology Branch of the NC DCR has recovered artifacts from 60 percent of the site, including cannons, anchors, gold dust, animal bones, lead shot, and medical and scientific instruments, officials said.

About 280,000 artifacts have been recovered in all. Full recovery is planned by 2014.

The booty is on display at the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort.

   

Tagged categories: Government; Historic Preservation; Museums; Project Management

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