Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ships: Queen Anne's Cannon

The painstaking work of raising the ship off Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina that is believed to be Blackbeard's flagship continues at a pace. Thanks to private donations, a large chunk of which come from pirate expert Pat Croce, East Carolina University has been able to raise some of the ship's cannon and many other artifacts from the sediment-clouded waters.

As this article from Hampton Roads notes, some of the more interesting guns were found to be loaded when hoisted up. This goes against naval philosophy of the time - the Royal Navy rarely if ever pre-loaded guns - and may point to a common practice among pirates of the Golden Age. Or perhaps this was simply a common practice of Blackbeard's.

Queen Anne's Revenge was sunk, not in battle, but after hitting a sandbar near the inlet where it now lies. This occurred in July or August of 1718 and Blackbeard met his end at the hands of Royal Navy pirate hunters the following November. There is no record that the QAR sank during a battle or chase, so we must imagine that the guns were loaded simply in preparation.

The cannon are now being kept in a warehouse at the ECU campus where they are taking a long bath in a sodium-carbonate solution to remove close to 300 years of seaworthy crust. Other items, including more guns, have been left in situ where they too are being cleaned by carefully place anodes which draw away the accumulated corrosion. As archaeologist David Moore puts it in the article: "We're using the bottom of the ocean as a conservation space."

A former French slaver, Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge was one of the larger and more elegant pirate ships of any era. She carried over 20 guns, had four decks, three masts and a spacious great cabin complete with gilt fixtures. Her loss must have been a sore trial for the man whose real name was Edward Teach.

On a final curious note, the article mentions that Edward's name may have been Thatch rather than Teach. That's one I have not heard before.

Header: Ocracoke Inlet Map by Henry Mouson c 1775 via Wikipedia


Timmy! said...

Seems like an appropriate undertaking for East Carolina University since they are the Purple Pirates, after all, Pauline...

Pauline said...

I didn't even think of that. You simply have to love serendipity!

Blue Lou Logan said...

Loaded guns? With the touchy nature of powder, loose or in cartridges, on open water, it scarcely seems reasonable. There's a reason HM's ships kept it all in fireproof magazines, wetted canvas and all. But then if Teach was as daredevil as his reputation, keeping everything battle-ready, even at risk to the crew itself, might be possible. Then the question becomes, if Teach scuttled her intentionally, as the story goes, why leave her in such a state?

Pauline said...

See, I thought that too. A bit of pirates sloppiness and laziness if you ask me.