Introducing the 2013 Field Season

By Kimberly Kenyon, QAR Conservator 

The 2013 Queen Anne’s Revenge (QAR) fall field season is underway, and has been for several weeks now! We’ve been bad about giving you updates, but that stops now.

Before we get to what’s been going on at the site, some introductions. Beginning August 5, a team of archaeologists and conservators from the Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources (NCDCR) is conducting a three-month long excavation of Blackbeard’s flagship near Beaufort, North Carolina, with the help of graduate students from East Carolina University (ECU).  Two cannon were recovered from the site in June, and we are hopeful that there will be even more cannon in store for the fall!

Billy Ray Morris, Director of UAB, is overseeing the excavation, along with UAB Archaeologists Nathan Henry and Chris Southerly. Captain and Dive Safety Officer Julep Gillman-Bryan is not only captaining R/V Jones Bay, our dive platform for this season, but is also making certain that divers follow proper safety procedures. Dave Moore, Curator of Nautical Archaeology for the N.C. Maritime Museum at Beaufort (and authority in all things Blackbeard) is expertly mapping the site and lending us his knowledge of 18th century ship construction.

Conservators Shanna Daniel and Kimberly Kenyon from the QAR Conservation Lab at ECU are also on-hand to ensure the safety and handling of each object during excavation, recovery, and transport to the lab.  Current ECU graduate students Laurel Seaborn, B.J. Howard, and Danny Bera, and ECU graduate Matt Thompson are serving as archaeological technicians and aiding in recovery efforts. Interns Greg Stratton, Jeremy Borelli, Jeneva Wright and Nicole Wittig, all current ECU graduate students, are on site to support operations.

The main goal for this season is to address the massive concretion marking the midships area of the wreck site. “The Pile,” as this landmark is colloquially named, is made up of a large anchor lying atop seven cannon. The immense amount of iron concentrated in this area has provided a host of nutrients for sea life, which in turn has supplemented the amount of encrustation surrounding the artifacts, essentially turning eight separate iron objects into one giant mass.  Excavation of the pile will require hammers and chisels used with the utmost care. It will be tedious and time-consuming, and will hopefully provide an array of objects trapped within the concretion. Additionally, new excavation units will be opened around the pile as well as north of it as work continues toward the bow of the ship.

We are always most hopeful to find the actual wooden structure of the hull of the ship beneath what we can now see, and with work continuing around the pile, it is very promising that hull remains may have been protected by the cannon lying on top. This season is focusing on recovering some of those cannon as they become chiseled free, as well as any potential hull remains. Hopefully, we will also have an opportunity to raise two cannon and two large cask hoop concretions, which the un-cooperative June weather prevented us from collecting.

During the next couple of weeks, we’ll bring you a few recaps of all the action from the field this season. After we get all caught up, we’ll try and bring you a fresh update every two weeks or so through the end of this fall’s dive. Stay tuned!

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