Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It's a Pirate's Life for Me...discovering historical treasure from Blackbeard's "Queen Anne's Revenge"

(Part I)

"Cutthroat Kate" strikes a pose
My husband, Bill, and I took a Sunday drive down to New Bern, North Carolina (about two hours south of our home in Edenton) to experience the traveling exhibit of artifacts recently brought up from the wreck of Blackbeard the pirate's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge.  Most of the photos on today's post are ones we shot at the exhibit and...yes...I had to include some of our silly shenanigans posing with the pirate statues and cutouts. The information garnered from this experience is just too much for a single post so I will divide into at least two segments. In today's post I will share with you the fascinating history of the ship and next week we'll take a look at the artifacts and the amazing efforts to preserve and, literally, bring them to light.


Blackbeard's Flag
The Queen Anne's Revenge's checkered past began long before she became the flagship of the infamous Captain Teach AKA Thatch AKA Blackbeard. Originally named La Concorde, she was owned by a French merchant by the name of Rene Montaudoin who used her as a slave trade ship from 1713 until her capture by Blackbeard in 1717. The ship's home port of operation was Nantes, France with ports of call on the west coast of Africa, to pick up enslaved Africans, and the French Caribbean islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Saint Domingue, to sell the slaves. On July 8, 1717, La Concorde picked up her final human cargo in present-day Benin and, under the leadership of Captain Pierre Dosset, sailed the Middle Passage route toward Martinique. With 516 captive Africans, and seventy-five crew members, La Concorde endured nearly eight weeks of sailing in which sixty-five slaves and sixteen crewmen perished.
 
Models of Queen Anne's Revenge and Adventurer
Queen Anne and Prince George by
Charles Boit (1706) Note the Prince's Big Hair
(see blog post from 1-08-2014)
About 100 miles from their destination, La Concorde encountered Blackbeard with his two armed sloops and crew of 150. The French ship's surviving crew members were further handicapped with thirty-six of them suffering from scurvy and dysentery.  After Blackbeard fired two volleys at the ship, Captain Dosset surrendered. The pirates unloaded the ship's crew and slaves onto the island of Bequia in the Grenadines and sailed away leaving the French the smaller of Blackbeard's two sloops. The French cabin boy and three other crewmen volunteered to join the pirate crew and ten others including a pilot, a sailor, a cook, two carpenters, and three surgeons, were taken by force. The French named their new and much smaller vessel, Mauvaise Rencontre which translates in English to Bad Encounter. Blackbeard renamed his new 200-ton ship, Queen Anne's Revenge. The pirate captain learned his trade while a legal privateer in the service of England's Queen Anne during her war against Spain and France between 1701 and 1714.
After Blackbeard's May, 1718 blockade of the port of Charleston, South Carolina in which he secured medicine for his crew, he sailed Queen Anne's Revenge to Old Topsail Inlet (present-day Beaufort Inlet) on the coast of North Carolina. There his flagship, as well as the sloop Adventure, ran aground on a sandbar and, after removing any valuable cargo, were abandoned.

John Lawson's Map showing Topsail Inlet (1709)
There is some speculation the pirate captain did this on purpose in order to disperse some of his crew whose numbers had grown to, perhaps, an unwieldy size of 300 souls. Blackbeard marooned some of the crewmen and left Beaufort with a hand-picked crew and most of the plunder. Over the centuries, Queen Anne's Revenge remained in place and eventually crumbled in upon itself beneath the sea. It was not until 1996 that the wreck was discovered and research determined it to, indeed, be Blackbeard's ship. Since that time, divers have continued to salvage thousands of artifacts expertly and carefully restored to bring us an unprecedented look at not only 300-year-old nautical life, but at one of the most-renowned and storied characters of all time, Blackbeard.

(See the Queen Anne's Revenge official website at http://www.qaronline.org/Home.aspx)
"Wicked Will" before and after some PhotoShop magic
Next week:  (Part II) Queen Anne's Revenge offers us a tantalizing peek into 18th century pirate life.

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now!

Kate



2 comments:

Bevan Wasserman said...

Fascinating!

Kathryn Louise Wood said...

Yes it is! It's really interesting to trace the life of an old sailing ship. For me, it transforms the ship into a living being with its own life history. Thanks for reading and commenting Bevan.