Oct. 26, 2011 -- Archaeologists lifted a 300-year-old cannon from the pirate Blackbeard's ship off the coast of North Carolina today.
The eight-foot-long cannon was covered in sand and ocean debris called "concretion," which will take archaeologists and students at East Carolina University as many as eight years to crack through before getting to the metal cannon, according to Jennifer Woodward, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, which oversees the project.
"It was perfect. It's a beautiful day, the crews were out earlier this morning, several boats out there witnessed it," Woodward said. "It looks like it's covered in concretions, with cement all around it, and there will be lots of things attached to it."
Woodward said that in past recoveries of cannons from the ship, bits of rope, lead shot, and gold dust had been found encased with the recovered artifact. Researchers have also found wine glass stems and a leg shackle, likely used in the slave trade, Woodward said. Twelve cannons have been lifted from the ship so far.
Blackbeard, whose real name was Edward Teach, who was the captain of the Queen Anne's Revenge, a captured French slave ship. In 1717, he successfully blockaded the harbor in Charleston, S.C., where he demanded money and goods from the townspeople for weeks.
Blackbeard the Pirate's Real Name Was Edward Teach
He used Ocracoke on the Outer Banks of North Carolina as his base of operations. It was there that he met his end in 1718.
Lauren Hermley, a researcher with the group, said that Blackbeard likely grounded the ship on purpose before it sank, giving the pirate and his crew time to take off the big ticket items--treasure troves of silver, for example.
He was rumored to have a treasure hidden somewhere, but if he did, the secret died with him. The artifacts that remain are jackpots only to archaeologists and history buffs.
Hermley noted that the recovery of artifacts has been going on since 1997, and is expected to last until 2013. Artifacts from the ship are on display in North Carolina museums and museums around the country. It is the largest underwater archeological project in the country, she noted.
"It's like Christmas," said Joe Newbury, spokesman for the department. "The director called it a Baby Ruth, because there's all this good stuff on the inside, and all this good stuff on the outside, too."
Divers began preparing the ship weeks ago for the crane that eventually pulled the cannon to the surface today. The sand-encased cannon will be taken to the Beaufort (N.C.) Maritime Museum for public viewing, and then moved to East Carolina University where researchers will work on it.
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