Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Experts say evidence points to QAR


By Cheryl Burke

GREENVILLE – Experts in the field of archaeology attending a two-day conference at East Carolina University agreed on one thing about a shipwreck found in Beaufort Inlet – the most recent evidence clearly points to it being the Queen Anne’s Revenge (QAR).

From a curator at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., to a host of other academia from across the nation, all agreed Thursday and Friday that artifacts fit the correct time period and characteristics for Blackbeard’s flagship, which historical records indicate sank in Beaufort Inlet in 1718.

“There is something called preponderance of evidence – and it collectively points to that,” said Dr. Donny Hamilton, head of the nautical archaeology program at Texas A&M. “There really is no other interpretation.”

“The wreck is the right size and right age to be the QAR – everything fits,” said Dr. Lindley Butler, noted North Carolina historian.

Scientists from numerous fields have been examining a wide variety of artifacts retrieved from the site, including wood, metals, glass, fibers, rock, ceramics, cannons and armament, since Intersal Inc. discovered it in 1996.

Phil Masters, president of Intersal Inc., turned the wreck over to the state when he realized the importance of his find.
“It was the right thing to do,” said Mr. Masters. “We had a moral obligation to the people of North Carolina.”

One after another scientists shared their most recent research on artifacts. Without exception the dates fit the correct time period for the QAR.

Of the thousands of artifacts brought up so far, 25 have been dated with a mean date of 1706, and none of them appear to have been manufactured after 1713, according to QAR project director Mark Wilde-Ramsing.

Based on the N.C. Underwater Archaeology historical database of the 4,679 shipwrecks in North Carolina, only three lost near Cape Lookout were during a 1713 to 1750 time period.

Of those three, only the Queen Anne’s Revenge was armed with at least 23 cannons, which have so far been discovered at the wreck site.

“When you add in the armament, there’s only one vessel it could be,” said Mr. Wilde-Ramsing
He said the wreck was positioned as if it was heading toward shore and was relatively intact.

“This suggests a grounding, not a violent storm,” he said. Historical records indicate the ship sank after being run aground.

Anchors and planking represent a 200 to 300 ton vessel, said Mr. Wilde-Ramsing, which fits the correct weight to be a 20-gun 6th rate English/French light frigate with four small guns added.

Up until recently historians believed the QAR was a former French slave ship, Concorde, which Blackbeard’s crew stole.

But Dave Moore, staff archaeologist with the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort, responsible for curatorship of artifacts, said they’ve recently discovered a record that indicates Blackbeard may have traded the Concorde for a 40-gun English ship.

With only 3 percent of the site excavated, archaeologists believe they will discover more cannons as they work.
Dr. Butler said the only large ship that would have tried to make its way into a small fishing village, which is what Beaufort was at that time, could have been the QAR..

“What is a ship of that size doing in Beaufort Inlet, a fishing village?” asked Dr. Butler. “That’s why it ran aground because it was too shallow.”

Fibers, metals, glass, pewter and other items fit the right time period and are of mostly European or Scandinavian origin.

The six cannon and other armament that have been retrieved from the site fit the right time frame as well, according to Nathan Henry, state archaeological conservator.

“The armament fits very happily in the 18th century time frame,” said Mr. Henry.

More than once archaeologists referred to a report that challenges whether the wreck is the QAR, stating there was misinterpretation of data.

Two ECU professors, Bradley Rogers and Nathan Richards, and the state of Michigan’s underwater archaeologist, Wayne Lusardi, who is the former project conservator for the QAR project, wrote the report, published in the April edition of The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.

The report states that no conclusive evidence has been found. The report also questions the markings on one cannon, 1730. If that is a date for the cannon’s manufacture, they say it would eliminate the wreck as the QAR.

But Mr. Henry said because of the nature and location of the mark, it indicates the weight of the cannon, not a date. And using an old European weight system, it fits the correct weight of the 1,917-pound cannon.

“Anybody who says it’s a date is basically showing their ignorance of cannon founding,” said Mr. Henry.
He explained that the numbers are crudely chiseled and in the wrong location.

“A cannon founder had professional engravers inscribe the date and it was usually placed on ends of the trunnion,” he said. “That is not professional engraving.”

Dr. Paul Johnston, Curator of Maritime History with the Smithsonian, questioned why the professors weren’t at the symposium to hear the data being presented.

“I wish that those who are criticizing were here,” he said. “If those individuals are concerned about the ship’s I.D. they should be here. It’s unfortunate they’re not.”

Whether the smoking gun is ever found, archaeologists agreed it was the most important shipwreck discovered in North Carolina.

“This is a special one that deserves special attention,” said Dr. Roger Smith, chief state archaeologist in Tallahassee, Fla. “It’s the earliest Colonial ship found in North Carolina waters.”

He added that it’s one of the most intact shipwrecks that had not been scavenged by treasure hunters.

Mr. Wilde-Ramsing said while thousands of artifacts continue to be prepared for display, divers would spend the entire month of May retrieving thousands more.

“That’s because the lab is here and we’ve gotten caught up with the backlog of artifacts we had,” he said. “Plus, we’ve gotten the Golden Leaf Foundation Award.”

All archaeologists said the state should be more forthcoming with funds to retrieve artifacts before they are lost to the harsh elements, such as hurricanes and continual loss of sand from the site.

“Because of the threat by natural forces and nature it might cost more to leave the artifacts. The sooner you do a total recovery the better and it’s not such a big fete or conservation challenge,” said Dr. Smith.


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