As one of the most recognizable and renowned pirates in all of sailing lore, Blackbeard (Edward Teach) sailed throughout the Caribbean and up the North American east coast for three years in the early 1700s, building his fleet, wealth, and legend in the process. The Queen Anne’s Revenge, dreaded flagship of his fleet, came to be known as a formidable vessel; one that was sadly sunk in 1718 as Blackbeard absconded with a wealth of loot. Based on Oracoke Island, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Blackbeard ran the ship aground following a week’s long blockade of the harbor in Charleston. Now, some 300 years later, the treasures of this sunken beauty are coming to the surface, exciting the minds and imaginations of scientists and nautical enthusiasts alike. As the largest underwater archeological project in America, the Queen Anne’s Revenge site has fascinated scientists since 1997, with multiple artifacts discovered, studied, and placed on display in museums throughout the country. As some of the grandest prizes, however, the massive cannons from the ship were exceptional finds, treasure troves of great historic import. Twelve cannons have been discovered thus far, with the newest one recently making headlines as it was raised from the wreckage. At 8 feet long, covered with “concretion,” or layers of sediment that form a hard shell, the cannon is a magnificent puzzle that must be carefully unlocked over the course of the next few years.
Though Blackbeard had received a pardon following his initial pirate activities, after a brief respite from the sea he soon returned in search of further plunder, leading soon afterwards to his death. Following his success in blockading the port of Charleston, Blackbeard became a much sought after target, pursued by British Lieutenant Robert Maynard under charge of Virgina Governor Alexander Spotswood. In what would prove to be his final battle, Blackbeard and his remaining crew were discovered in late November, 1718, and quickly blockaded by Maynard’s fleet before coming under attack. Returning fire, Blackbeard’s pirates leapt aboard Maynard’s seemingly empty vessel only to be surprised by sailors hidden below decks. During the brief battle the legendary pirate was struck down by blade, with Maynard taking Blackbeard’s head as a trophy; hanging it from the bow of his ship as he sailed triumphantly back to shore. Though Blackbeard’s life at sea was cut short, he left the world with his fascinating story and a legendary ship that now, 300 years later, is met not with dread, but pure fascination and wonder.