Sunday, May 14, 2006

 

Researchers left with puzzle

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The Daily News
By Patricia Smith
May 11, 2006


ATLANTIC BEACH — It was a little like working a 3-D jigsaw puzzle.

Two pieces of concretion brought up from the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck site Wednesday seemed to fit together, but no one was really sure what it was.

“Some of it’s a barrel hoop,” said Sarah Watkins-Kenney, lead conservator with the QAR Project.

The other part was, well ...

“Probably tons of stuff in there,” predicted lab assistant Kim Smith, an East Carolina University graduate student studying historic archaeology.

The pieces were like many of the artifacts divers recovered this week in the first three days of what is planned to be a two-week diving expedition at the site believed to be the home of the 18th century pirate Blackbeard’s flagship.

Some of the concretions contained barrel hoops, lead patches, bar shot — things the divers have been bringing up from the site for several years.

Some were just unrecognizable — right now, anyway.

“The thing is, you never know what’s in there,” said Richard Lawrence, head of the Underwater Archaeology branch of the N.C. Office of State Archaeology.

Images of concretions X-rayed earlier this year showed what might be a cuff link, a navigational tool, a shackle and glass beads, Lawrence said.

“You’d think glass wouldn’t show up in an X-ray, but it’s apparently like a leaded glass,” Lawrence said.

The divers are trying to finish what they started in May 2005, excavating different 5-foot-square units of seafloor from different places across the wreckage to get a representative sample of artifacts from the entire boat, said QAR Project Director Mark Wilde-Ramsing.

“We have 11 units that we want to get excavated, and we’ve probably done four,” Wilde-Ramsing said.

All four units have been in the area on the east side of the stern, Wilde-Ramsing said.

A broken stern post, which was partly uncovered at the end of last year’s dive, has stirred much interest among the archaeologists.

It’s a major component of the vessel, one that could hold many clues about the boat’s origin, said David Moore, nautical historian with the N.C. Maritime Museum.

There are no plans to recover the piece this spring, but Moore hopes in the days to come, project divers will be able to move the piece enough so that he can video the bottom of it.

“It should give us a little better idea of her tonnage, the types of fasteners that were used to hold one of the major components of the ship together,” Moore said.

Different historical documents give different descriptions of the Queen Anne’s Revenge’s carrying capacity, ranging from 200 tons to 300 tons, Moore said. It was lost in 1718.

“This section may get us a little closer to what the actual tonnage was,” Moore said.

Archaeologists expect to find other, more personal items, as they move to areas of the wreckage where the officers’ quarters would have been, Wilde-Ramsing said. The QAR Project also plans to bring up a 6-foot cannon May 17.


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