BEAUFORT — Referring to it as a red-letter day, state underwater archeologists retrieved five cannons and two other large artifacts Monday from the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck in Beaufort Inlet.
Archeologists were assisted by the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Smilax, based at U.S. Coast Guard Station, Sector Field Office Fort Macon. The 1944 flat-bottom cutter is the oldest in the fleet and referred to as the “The Queen of the Fleet.”
“It’s as if the Queen of the Fleet has met the Queen Anne’s Revenge,” said Commanding Officer Scott McAloon, who oversaw the hoisting of the artifacts onto his ship. “What an opportunity for the Coast Guard, the state of North Carolina and history. These cannons haven’t seen the light of day in 300 years.”
State underwater archaeologists staged off of a flat bottom vessel, Jones Bay, which was anchored nearby. Divers floated cannons to the surface using bright yellow air balloons, which were then attached to hoist lines aboard the Smilax.
Crews hoisted the cannons aboard the Smilax in two hours, and within another two hours had retrieved the two large artifacts, which were barrel hoops clumped in concretion, which is a conglomerate of sand and dirt that forms on artifacts on the ocean floor.
“This is a red letter day. Five cannons is the most we have ever picked up in a single day,” said Dave Moore, nautical archaeologist with the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort, responsible for curatorship of artifacts. Numerous artifacts retrieved in previous dives are already on display at the museum.
Billy Ray Morris, deputy archaeologist and director of the Queen Anne’s Revenge project, praised the teamwork of the Coast Guard and QAR crew.
“It was just an absolutely fantastic day,” he said. “If we can get this team in the future and weather like we had today, we will have the artifacts up by the end of 2014,” he said.
Archaeologists are hoping to retrieve all artifacts from the site, discovered in 1996 by Intersal Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., by the end of 2014 because of the deterioration of the site from numerous hurricanes that have hit the coast.
Mr. Morris said the five cannons brought up were six-pounders, meaning they shot six-pound cannonballs. One of the cannons weighs about 3,000 pounds, with the other four weighing about 2,000 pounds.
With the raising of the five, that makes 22 cannons raised from the site, and Mr. Morris said there are at least eight remaining on the ocean floor. So far 30 cannons have been discovered at the site, with three of those during this year’s dive season.
“We know the records state that the Queen Anne’s Revenge had 40 cannons, and I believe we’ll find some more before it’s all over, but I’m not sure if we’ll find all 40,” he said.
Although the large clusters of barrel hoops, the artifacts that were also raised, weren’t as impressive as the cannons to many onboard, for archaeology conservator Shanna Daniel, they are another important clue to the identify of the ship, which was the LaConcorde, a French slave and merchant ship that was captured by Blackbeard and renamed the Queen Anne’s Revenge.
“We’ve found many barrel hoops of various sizes at the site. And since the LaConcorde was a merchant ship, we would expect to find a lot of barrel hoops,” she said.
Ms. Daniel said divers also retrieved many other artifacts during the fall dive season, including a powder ladle, which would have been used to scoop gunpowder.
“That’s the first one we’ve found,” she said.
Divers also retrieved numerous ballast stones, cannonballs and a piece of ceramic.
This was an especially poignant expedition for Ms. Daniel, who will be leaving the crew to transfer to Maryland because of her husband’s job. She has worked with the project for more than six years.
“This is a great way to end my time. I guess I’m going out with a bang,” she said.
While many of the crew said it was exciting to be a part of the historic event, there were two people on board who were especially enthusiastic. Broad Creek Middle School sixth-grader Savannah McAloon, daughter of Officer McAloon, was able to join the expedition along with her social studies teacher Ryan Koczot.
“It was really exciting. I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Savannah.
Mr. Kozcot, too, said it was a great experience that he planned to share with his students. He’s also going to help pilot a Queen Anne’s Revenge curriculum being developed by the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.
“I enjoyed this historical experience,” he said. “I plan to take as many pictures and as much video to share with the kids.”
After offloading artifacts at the Coast Guard station, the five cannons were transported to the QAR conservation lab in Greenville. The N.C. Maritime Museum transported the barrel hoops to the lab on Tuesday.
The artifacts join hundreds of others going through cleaning and conservation in preparation for display. Artifacts already retrieved include cannons, an anchor, ship’s bell, cannonballs, navigational and medical instruments, to name a few. About 60 percent of the site has now been excavated.
The cannon raising closes out the 2013 dive season, but Mr. Morris said they plan to return in the spring.
Historical records indicate the Queen Anne’s Revenge was run aground by Blackbeard in 1718.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.
BEAUFORT — State underwater archeologists hoisted up this morning five cannons from Blackbeard’s flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, which sunk in Beaufort Inlet in 1718. This is the final week of a fall expedition that began in August.
More artifacts were to be pulled up Monday afternoon.
Four of the five cannons weighed 2,000 pounds and one nearly 3,000 pounds. All the cast iron cannons fired six-pound cannon balls, and will bring to 20 the cannons raised from the site. This will be the biggest group of cannons recovered at one time.
“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 stated in a press release about the scheduled dive. “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. To date, 29 guns have been located at the shipwreck site near Beaufort.
The research team, led by the Underwater Archaeology Branch of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, has recovered artifacts from 60 percent of the site, including cannons, anchors, gold dust, animal bones, lead shot, medical and scientific instruments, and much more. Altogether about 280,000 artifacts have been recovered.
Recovered artifacts are taken to the QAR lab in Greenville for conservation, and then put on display at the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort and other museums.
Full recovery is planned by 2014. An extensive Queen Anne’s Revenge exhibit is on display at the N.C. Maritime Museum.
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Smilax is doing the heavy lifting. It is a 100-foot, 200-ton, flat-bottom, intercoastal cutter. It’s the oldest ship (1944) in Coast Guard service and has been designated as "Queen of the Fleet."