Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Maritime Museum breaks out the big guns


The Daily News
By Patricia Smith
April 27, 2005

BEAUFORT - Pirate ships and cannons just go together.

And when people visit the N.C. Maritime Museum's exhibit of artifacts from a vessel archaeologists think might have belonged to the legendary pirate Blackbeard, they want to see the big guns.

"It's probably the most logo thing off this ship that people think of in relation to pirates," said Connie Mason, collections manager for the museum.

Soon museum visitors will get their wish.

The first two cannons to arrive at the museum from the Queen Anne's Revenge shipwreck site came from the conservation lab Tuesday. And the plan is to get them out for public display quickly - sometime in May, said museum director David Nateman.

"The actual interpretive exhibit won't be ready at that time," Nateman said and added that the museum will work up some type of interim display.

"The intent is to bring the smaller one to the museum and leave the larger one at the repository," Nateman said.
The smaller gun may have been a rail gun, and the museum plans to display it that way, Nateman said.

There was no apparatus, such as a carriage, found associated with the weapon at the shipwreck site, said David Moore, curator of nautical archaeology at the museum.

Rail guns were attached to the rails of the ship, Moore said. They could swivel on their base and were light enough to be mobile.

"If you're getting attacked by another ship you could literally pick it up and move it to another location," Moore said.

Markings on the smaller gun indicate it once weighed 199 pounds, Moore said. It currently weighs only 175 pounds because of loss from either corrosion or the conservation process, he said.

The gun is of English make and probably shot a 1-pound cannonball, Moore said. Because of the way it was made, was fairly unusual in its day, he said.

"According to some of the experts, English guns were rarely made with a two-part mold, especially this early," Moore said.

The larger cannon currently weighs 325 pounds and doesn't have a marked weight, said conservation lab manager Wendy Welsh.

It is marked, however, by a definite date, 1713, Moore said. It's one of only two artifacts retrieved from the shipwreck marked by a date. The Queen Anne's Revenge ran aground in Beaufort Inlet in 1718.

"This is the one artifact that establishes a date that it cannot go any earlier," he said.

The larger gun appears to be a carriage gun and bears the letters "IEC" for Jasper Ehrencreutz, a Swedish family that manufactured guns from the mid-17th century through the 18th century, Moore said.

The two cannons were retrieved from the shipwreck site in 1999. They were both in a single concretion that divers nicknamed "Baby Ruth" because of its resemblance to the candy bar.

The museum expects to receive a third cannon from the Queen Anne's Revenge site this summer, Nateman said.

Moving the cannons to the museum will free space at the conservation lab that will be needed for the two to three cannons and other artifacts the Queen Anne's Revenge Project plans to bring up from the shipwreck site next month, said project director Mark Wilde-Ramsing.

The project will begin site preparations Monday for a monthlong dive funded by a $145,000 grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation.

"It's going to be four weeks of excavations," Wilde-Ramsing said.

The divers plan to dig up 16 different 5 foot-by-5 foot units from various areas of the shipwreck, he said.
It will be the longest excavation dive for the project in several years and Moore said he is excited about the opportunity.

"I'd like to find something to finally prove once and for all that this is the Queen Anne's Revenge to silence the naysayers," Moore said.

The project recently came under criticism from two East Carolina University maritime studies professors and an archaeologist who formerly worked with the Queen Anne's Revenge Project.

They claimed those associated with the project might have slanted evidence associated with the wreckage to make it fit a preconceived notion that it was Blackbeard's flagship.


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