During the Golden Age of Piracy (1689-1718), rogues pursued their lawless and murderous trade throughout the New World. Restrictive laws passed by the British Parliament had made smuggling acceptable and even desirable in North Carolina and the other American colonies. Lightly-armed merchant ships were easy prey for the pirates, who seized their contents and sometimes killed those who resisted. Because of its shallow sounds and inlets, North Carolina’s Outer Banks became a haven for many of these outlaws in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Blackbeard was the most notorious pirate in the history of seafaring. With a beard that almost covered his face, he would strike terror into the hearts of his victims, according to some early accounts, by weaving wicks laced with gunpowder into his hair, and lighting them during battle. A big man, he added to his menacing appearance by wearing a crimson coat, two swords at his waist, and bandoleers stuffed with numerous pistols and knives across his chest.
The sight of Blackbeard was enough to make most of his victims surrender without a fight. If they gave up peacefully, he would usually take their valuables, navigational instruments, weapons, and rum before allowing them to sail away. If they resisted, he would often maroon the crews and burn their ship. Blackbeard worked hard at establishing his devilish image, but there is no archival evidence to indicate that he ever killed anyone who was not trying to kill him.
Blackbeard’s lawless career lasted only a few years, but his fearsome reputation has long outlived him. Thought to have been a native of England, he was using the name Edward Teach (or Thatch) when he began his pirating sometime after 1713 as a crewman aboard a Jamaican sloop commanded by the pirate Benjamin Hornigold. In 1716 Hornigold gave Teach command of a captured vessel. By mid-1717 the two, sailing in concert, were among the most feared pirates of their day.
In November 1717, in the eastern Caribbean, the pirates took a 26-gun, richly laden French ship called the Concorde, originally been built in Great Britain. About that time, Hornigold decided to accept the British Crown’s offer of a general amnesty if he would retire from his pirating ways. Teach rejected a pardon, and decided to make the Concorde his flagship, increased her armament to 40 guns, and renamed her Queen Anne’s Revenge or (QAR). By the time he sailed northward up the American coast in the spring of 1718, Blackbeard was in command of four vessels and more than 300 pirates.
Blackbeard’s reign of terror climaxed in a week-long blockade of the port of Charleston, S.C., in late May 1718. One week later, the QAR was lost at Beaufort Inlet. One of the smaller vessels in Blackbeard’s flotilla, the ten-gun sloop Adventure, was lost the same day while trying to assist the stranded flagship.
Blackbeard and his confidants sailed to Bath, then the capital of North Carolina, where they received pardons from Governor Charles Eden. In November 1718, Governor Alexander Spottswood of Virginia, knowing that Blackbeard and his men had continued taking ships long after the period of amnesty had expired, sent a Royal Navy contingent to North Carolina, and Blackbeard was killed in a bloody battle at Ocracoke Inlet on November 22, 1718. During the action, Blackbeard received a reported five musketball wounds and more than 20 sword lacerations before dying. Blackbeard had captured more than 40 ships during his piratical career, and his death virtually represented the end of an era in the history of piracy in the New World.
The wreck site is in about 20 feet of water in Beaufort Inlet, inside North Carolina waters.
* The wreck was found by Intersal, a private group licensed by North Carolina, on November 21, 1996 and confirmed by N.C. Underwater Archaeology Unit on November 22, 1996, the 278th anniversary of Blackbeard’s death.
* The wreck was originally buried under sand with only an anchor fluke visible above the seabed. Subsequent excavation revealed numbers of large cannon.
* Artifacts recovered include a bronze ship’s bell (dated 1709), a brass blunderbuss barrel, a 21-lb. lead sounding weight, 24-pounder cannon balls, and numerous other small objects. The bell is not from Queen Anne’s Revenge, but is either Spanish or Portuguese. The blunderbuss and sounding weight are definitely English.
BLACKBEARD’S BOUNTIFUL “BOOTY” DRAWS ATTENTION TO NORTH CAROLINA’S CRYSTAL COAST
April 1, 2007
CAPE LOOKOUT, N.C. – Touted as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” and one of the best dive sites in the world, Crystal Coast, North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks, offers diving enthusiasts a once in a lifetime experience to dive Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge, from May 10- July 21, 2007, with the Dive Down program. Implemented by the state of North Carolina, the aptly named program allows 1,500 recreational divers over the course of five years, 2006-2010, the chance of a lifetime to dive the remains of the infamous pirate Blackbeard’s ship the Queen Anne’s Revenge, acknowledged as one of the most important underwater archeological discoveries in the United States.
As the legendary tale goes, in 1718 Blackbeard decided to ground the ship and leave a select few of his crew. Since it’s discovery in 1996, the Queen Anne’s Revenge has been off-limits to everyone except archeologists and state officials to protect the integrity of the site. With the implementation of Dive Down, diving fanatics have another realm of exploration beneath the brilliantly luminous waters of the Crystal Coast.
The upcoming dates for the 2007 Dive Down program with its opportunities to explore this wreck, are July 19-20 and July 20-21. The goal of the program is to provide divers with an educational and entertaining experience, while advocating the protection of this and other underwater heritage sites. The two-day program is designed to illuminate the many facets of an underwater archaeological site, specifically the Queen Anne’s Revenge and includes four distinct modules; maritime history, underwater archaeology, coastal geography and marine ecology. Upon completion of the program participants will receive a North Carolina site diver specialty certification card, designation as official Queen Anne’s Revenge diver and certified and limited edition memorabilia.
Known as a trifecta of diving perfection with rich wreck diving, the Crystal Coast also is famous for 85-miles of shimmering beaches, crystalline blue water and lush maritime forests, along the Southern Outer Banks, designated as having “Clean and Healthy” beaches by the Clean Beaches Council. Recognized among the best shipwreck diving destinations in the world by Scuba Diving magazine, the Crystal Coast is comprised primarily of area cities Emerald Isle, Atlantic Beach, Morehead City, Beaufort and the Cape Lookout area.
For daring divers seeking further information on experiencing the Dive Down program on NORTH CAROLINA’S CRYSTAL COAST call 800-786-6962 or visit www.crystalcoastnc.org.