Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Wine bottle location piques the curiosity of Queen Anne's Revenge researchers


The Daily News
By Patricia Smith
May 23, 2005

ATLANTIC BEACH - It was an odd place to find a wine bottle.

At least underwater archaeologists didn't expect to find one in the midsection bottom of a sunken ship they think belonged to the pirate Blackbeard.

"It was nestled in between two ballast stones," said Chris Southerly, field supervisor for the state's Queen Anne's Revenge Project, which is doing a monthlong dive at the site.

There it was, an intact onion-shaped bottle - the kind typically used for wine on board ships in the 18th century.

The bottles were durable with a sturdy base, said QAR Project Director Mark Wilde-Ramsing. "Perfect for a rocking ship," he said.

The bottle, found last week, was much like two others divers found on the shipwreck in earlier expeditions, Wilde-Ramsing said. The other two were found in the stern area, in what is believed to be the captain's quarters, along with various science instruments and gold dust.

But this latest one was found in bilge area, not a center of shipboard activity, Wilde-Ramsing said.

Archaeologists don't know if the bottle was put there intentionally.
"It's light enough that it could have been transported as part of the wrecking process," Southerly said.

Moreover, the crew may have reused empty wine bottles, Southerly said.

The bottle contained what appeared to be saltwater and sand, said QAR Project Conservator Sarah Watkins-Kenney.

Then there's another thought.

"It may be an indication that wine bottles were not just confined to the officers' quarters but were spread across the vessel," Southerly said.

That probably would not have been the case on an 18th century merchant ship or navy vessel, Southerly said.

"Typically, sailors would get their rations on a daily basis," he said. "Especially the alcohol would have been regulated on board."

But the discipline on ships that operated outside the law probably varied greatly from ship to ship, Southerly said.

"All the standard rules need not apply aboard a pirate vessel," he said.

Historical accounts show pirate ships did not abide by normal rules, said David Moore, nautical archaeologist and maritime historian for the N.C. Maritime Museum.

"The pirates would drink that stuff up as quickly as they got it so they always had their eyes open for a ship carrying wine," Moore said.

When they got it, a two-to-three-day party would ensue.

"They would do all kinds of strange things," Moore said. "They literally would take baths in the stuff."

Some maritime historians have argued that this lifestyle is what caused many sailors to take up piracy trying to escape what they viewed as oppressive restrictions placed on the military and merchant ships, Southerly said.


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