Sunday, May 29, 2005


Is Blackbeard's secret set to surface?


The Scotsman
May 28, 2005

HE was one of the most ruthless maritime marauders of his age and his name spread fear across the high seas.
Now the latest recovery from a wreck off the east coast of the United States could shed more light on the 18th-century legend, Blackbeard the pirate.

Marine archaeologists are raising two giant cannons from the scattered remains of what they believe is the Queen Anne's Revenge, the notorious swashbuckler's giant flagship that sank in 1718 after a skirmish with the Royal Navy.

They hope it will force critics of the nine-year-old recovery project, including two university professors who last month published a paper disputing the authenticity of the wreck, to eat their words.

"We knew it the first day and we still have absolutely no doubt that she's the Queen Anne's Revenge," said Phil Masters, the director of the Florida company that has been exploring the site two miles off North Carolina.

More than 16,000 artefacts, including pewter tankards and plates, cannonballs and a ship's bell, have been raised and put on display since excavations began. The haul includes at least 23 other cannons, but the team believes the latest find may be the most significant.

Chris Southerly, the project dive-master, said the first 6ft cannon, which was raised on Tuesday, weighed about 800lb, supporting the team's theory that Queen Anne's Revenge was one of the most heavily armed vessels afloat.

A dispute continues, however, over whether the artefacts are really from the ship that belonged to Blackbeard, a British privateer turned outlaw named Edward Teach, or Thatch, who terrorised Atlantic and Caribbean waters in the early 18th century.

"It's an exciting shipwreck and an important shipwreck; it just may not be the one everyone hopes it is," Wayne Lusardi, a researcher who previously worked on the project, said.

He and two East Carolina University professors published an article in the April edition of the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology claiming that the ship might be an 18th- century Spanish merchant vessel. "The closer you look, the less certain the identification seems to be," they wrote.

The recovery effort has cost nearly $1 million (£550,000) so far and Mr Masters insists he has found Blackbeard's ship. "There's no other ship lost at Beaufort Inlet with anything more than 10 cannons, nor of more than 110 tons, that we know of," he said. "No other shipwreck reported in this area even remotely qualifies as a candidate."

Six months after the sinking of Queen Anne's Revenge, Blackbeard, by then on another ship, was killed in a bloody battle with the Royal Navy off Virginia.


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