Return of the Queen Anne’s Revenge

Jul. 10, 2017

Queen Anne's Revenge (QAR), Blackbeard's flagship, ran aground in North Carolina's Beaufort Inlet and was abandoned by the pirate in June 1718. Its location was one of America's longest-standing unsolved mysteries.

On Nov. 21, 1996 — almost 280 years after the pirate's death in a raging battle off North Carolina's coast — the waterlogged remains of a ship believed to be the QAR was found by Intersal, a Florida-based research, survey and recovery firm.

Since the 1996 discovery, a team from Intersal, the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources and the N.C. Maritime Museum has mounted multiple diving expeditions, gathering evidence like a prosecutor preparing for trial. The findings have added up to a conclusion by the team that the ship is in fact the QAR.

More than 300,000 artifacts have been recovered, but it was one of the first finds, a bronze bell, that helped researchers date the wreck.

Chemical treatment of the heavily encrusted bell revealed 1-inch-high letters embossed around its waist that read "IHS (Iesu Hominorum Salvator) Maria" and "ano de 1705."

The crudeness of the bell's casting and the lettering suggest that it was made in a Spanish or Portuguese New World colony. The bell is believed to be too small to have been the QAR's. Theories for its presence in the wreckage hold that it was acquired while the frigate sailed as a French slave ship or after Blackbeard seized it in 1717.

The large number of cannons found near the site added more circumstantial evidence to the belief that the wreck was the QAR. In Blackbeard's day, the QAR was reported to have had 40 cannons aboard, and to date, 25 cannons have been discovered.

Pewter plates, syringes, a musketoon barrel and wine bottles - all from the appropriate time period - also have been found. Scientists tested wood from the ship's hull and determined them to be white oak, used in ships constructed in northwest Europe.

A permanent exhibition at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort makes the team's case for the conclusion that the ship is the QAR, based on historical records and the evidence revealed from the artifacts.

Among the items in the display are hull fragments, sailcloth and a sailmaker's needle; two cannons, cannonballs with apron, a sword quillon block and a serpentine side plate; and two medical syringes, cufflinks, buckles, galley items, an apparatus from the head, and other objects from everyday life.

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Eleanor Talley