FORT MACON — State underwater archaeologists have been pulling up treasures from the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck in Beaufort Inlet, including two small cannons and cannonballs.
Divers began their fall dive season Aug. 5 and will continue excavation of the site through Oct. 31, according to Billy Ray Morris, QAR project director and deputy state archaeologist.
“We’re pulling up objects nearly every day,” Mr. Morris said Tuesday. “We’re working the main artifacts pile in the mid-ship area.”
While many of the items brought up so far have been ballast stones, which have smaller artifacts embedded in them, archaeologists retrieved two small cannons Aug. 16. The cannons, along with other artifacts, have been transported to the conservation lab in Greenville.
Mr. Morris said the small cannons shot 2-pound balls and were about 4-foot long.
Artifacts found in the ballast stones brought up from the site include cannonballs, lead shot and sounding weights, which were weights dropped to the ocean floor to discover the depth of the water.
Mr. Morris said he’s hoping to bring up three larger cannons later in the fall once a state vessel large enough to hoist them is available.
Archaeologists had hoped to bring up eight cannons in May and June during the spring dive season, but high winds and waves prevented them from reaching their goal.
They did manage in June to bring up two cannons that are six-pounders (shot 6-pound cannonballs).
Those two make 15 cannons retrieved from the site since its discovery in November 1996. Twenty-seven cannons have been discovered at the wreck so far.
Mr. Morris said the weather has cooperated for the fall dive season and he hopes it continues.
The state has set a goal of retrieving all artifacts by the end of 2014, and Mr. Morris said, if the weather cooperates, he believes he can achieve the goal.
As for funding, Mr. Morris said representatives from the State Department of Cultural Resources have been meeting with Friends of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the nonprofit fundraising organization for the project, to discuss ways to raise money to keep the project afloat.
The state pays the salaries of state archaeologists, conservators and part-time assistants, but there are no state funds provided for operations, according to Mr. Morris.
Since exploration of the shipwreck began in 1997, about 280,000 artifacts have been recovered, including cannons, anchors, ship’s bell, medical and navigational instruments, grenades and platters.
Many of those items are on display at the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort, and others are part of traveling exhibits around the state.
The QAR wreck was discovered in November 1996 by Intersal Inc., with information provided to Operations Director Mike Daniel by company president Phil Masters. Archaeologists with the Underwater Archaeology Branch in the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources lead the research on this shipwreck.
Historical records indicate the pirate Blackbeard ran the Queen Anne’s Revenge aground in Beaufort in 1718.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.