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Blackbeard's Flagship Volume 50 Number 3, May/June 1997
by Angela M.H. Schuster

[image] Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard. (North Carolina Department of Archives and History) [LARGER IMAGE]

The wreck of what may be Queen Anne's Revenge, the flagship of the infamous early eighteenth-century pirate Blackbeard, has been found in 20 feet of water less than two miles off Beaufort, North Carolina. Discovered by commercial divers and North Carolina state archaeologists, the remains include more than 15 large cannon, 24-pound cannon balls, two anchors, a bronze bell inscribed with the date 1709, a brass blunderbuss, and a large portion of a white oak hull.

Edward Teach, alias Blackbeard, began sacking and pillaging settlements along the Atlantic coast and around the Caribbean in 1716. A native of Bristol, England, Teach turned to piracy after serving as a privateer in Queen Anne's War (1701-1713), in which England and France vied for control over North American colonies.

By 1718 he had as many as 300 men and at least four vessels, including Queen Anne's Revenge, under his command. The 200-ton British-built merchant ship, launched as the Concorde in 1710, had been used by the French to transport enslaved Africans from Senegal to the New World. In 1717 it was commandeered by Captain Benjamin Hornigold, a pirate leader under whom Blackbeard served. The ship's original 20 guns were increased to 40 in preparation for a series of raids, which climaxed with a week-long blockade of Charleston in May 1718. During the blockade Blackbeard captured several merchant ships, absconding with gold, slaves, and other valuables. Queen Anne's Revenge ran aground on a sandbar the following month while trying to enter Beaufort Inlet. Blackbeard and his crew escaped, but, after a spell of drunkenness and debauchery on Okracoke Island near Cape Hatteras, he was killed and then beheaded by British forces on November 22, 1718.

"Based on its location and the nature and date of the artifacts, we are 90 percent sure that this is Queen Anne's Revenge," says Jeffrey J. Crow, director of North Carolina's Department of Archives and History. The search for the ship was conducted by Michael Daniel and Philip Masters of Intersal, a private salvage firm based in Boca Raton, Florida, under a permit from North Carolina's Office of State Archaeology. The Maritime Research Institute, a newly formed nonprofit corporation under Daniel's direction, will manage the excavation of the site; the state retains ownership of the wreck and its artifacts. The state has not disclosed its precise location, fearing looting of the vessel. Steps are under way to designate the site a protected state archaeological preserve. Archaeologists will return to the wreck in late May.

© 1997 by the Archaeological Institute of America