The Story of Blackbeard’s Shipwreck: Queen Anne’s Revenge

by Nancy Gadzuk

Mark Wilde-Ramsing, former Director of the Underwater Archaeology Unit at Fort Fisher, spoke at the January 21, 2019 meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society.

 

Mark and Leslie Bright, Director of the History Center, worked together as a team for many years at Fort Fisher, and the Underwater Archaeology Unit there is the oldest in the country. Mark spoke on The Story of Blackbeard’s Shipwreck: Queen Anne’s Revenge. He was also promoting his new book, Blackbeard’s Sunken Prize: The 300-Year Voyage of Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Edward Teach, better known as the pirate Blackbeard, was notorious in the early 1700’s, a prime time for privateers and pirates.

In 1717 he commandeered the French frigate the Concorde and renamed it Queen Anne’s Revenge. Fast and well-armed, it became Blackbeard’s flagship, and he and his crew stole as much bounty as they could from other less notorious privateers and pirates.

But not for too long, as Blackbeard ran the ship aground in 1718 outside of Beaufort, North Carolina, possibly to evade capture by the British. There the ship sat underwater until the wreckage was discovered in 1997.

It took almost ten years of environmental review and geological research to determine if bringing up these relics from the past was important enough to warrant disrupting the ocean floor. Apparently it was.

Full recovery took from 2006 to 2015, as salt and water made recovering artifacts difficult. Each item had to be kept wet until it could be cleaned, documented, and preserved in a laboratory. More than 400,000 artifacts were recovered, including pieces of fine glassware, jewelry, intricate weapons, pewter plates, medical tools, and more.

These artifacts came from all around the world: England, France, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, China, and Africa. Thirty cannons were also recovered, which explains how Queen Anne’s Revenge was able to amass such a trove of riches in only six months.

Leg shackles were also recovered, suggesting that Blackbeard and his crew may have been slave traders as well as upscale, high-end thieves.

Mark shared pictures of some of the artifacts from the recovery and entertained a short question and answer before signing copies of the book he’d brought and made available for sale.