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Raising a cask hoop concretion

Raising a cask hoop concretion

After the weekend, we returned to site with the focus of separating the individual elements that make up the pile. A large anchor, A2, lies atop 8 cannon. With such a large concentration of iron, the cannon and anchor have concreted together to form one massive concretion – too large to recover all together. To recover artifacts from the pile we need to separate them. We began this work this week. We first tried using an old fashioned hammer and chisel, but it quickly became apparent that the immense concretion was too thick to attack with man-power alone.  A pneumatic chisel attached to an air compressor on the deck of R/V Jones Bay proved to speed up the process, and we made some headway.  The pneumatic chisel has made it much easier to map and remove cannon balls and ballast stones as we come upon them lodged deep within the concretion.

A beautiful day with calm, glassy waters

A beautiful day with calm, glassy waters

We also managed to raise two large cask hoop concretions and another concretion of unidentified artifacts, along with an assortment of small objects and get them all transported back to the lab.  Another very productive week for the team, considering we only worked three days because of Labor Day and one bad weather day!  The seas flattened out entirely on Thursday, and by Friday, the visibility climbed to 15 feet. All the divers marveled at the rare opportunity to be able to see the entire wreck site upon descent.

Our team grew this week with the addition of ECU graduate student Nicole Wittig. We are excited to have her on board for the remainder of the fall season!

Week 5 was September 3-6.

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By Kimberly Kenyon, QAR Conservator 

Some of the highlights from the second part of August include the discovery of a previously-unknown cannon under a large concretion and the raising and transport of several large concretions. Here’s an overview:

Week 3: August 19-23

Recovering the deadeye strop concretion

Recovering the deadeye strop concretion.

Divers surfaced on Monday with the exciting news of a previously unknown cannon lying within the immense concretion that makes up the pile. This new cannon, which is estimated to be a two-pounder based on its size, brings the cannon grand total to 28! This cannon is also the eigth located in this particular pile. Our numbers seem to be edging closer and closer to the 40 cannon purportedly on the QAR at the time of grounding. Will we find all 40? We certainly hope so!

U.S. Coast Guard crane operators removing the sounding weight concretion from Jones Bay

U.S. Coast Guard crane operators removing the sounding weight concretion from Jones Bay.

Tuesday, we were able to raise two large concretions using the davit (think of a small crane, like one used to raise and lower lifeboats off the sides of ships). One contained two lead sounding weights and a deadeye strop;  the other  had two massive deadeye strops. It’s always exciting to find pieces of the ship’s rigging!

Wednesday, we moved the dredges to units 244, 245, 247 and 248, where cannon C-26 and C-27 were found. After removing the sandbags and overburden, the smaller dredges were employed so that sediment could then be collected in the sluices on deck.  Unfortunately, the winds turned again, so we spent Thursday and Friday on shore. At least it allowed time for Kim, Jeremy, and Greg to count and weigh all the ballast stones raised so far and put them in storage. It cleared up some much needed space on the dock at Fort Macon.

Heavy concretion with 2 large lead sounding weights visible (bottom)

Heavy concretion with 2 large lead sounding
weights visible (bottom).

The visibility has been improving, and with all this close-up time with the pile, we have been spotting a certain curious octopus lurking. Julep has even gotten some video of him. Unfortunately, he is going to have to be evicted from his home on the pile so we can get to work!

Greg (left) and BJ (right) lowering the dredge to the seabed.

Greg (left) and BJ (right) lowering the dredge to the seabed.

Week 4: August 26-30

Brick fragment.

Brick fragment.

Various small finds are finally coming to light during the fourth week of work on site. Greg identified a brick fragment just underneath cannon C-7 in unit 246, and he also very carefully lifted and recovered a fragment o12f pine sacrificial hull planking in unit 270!  We hope this is a good indicator of what may still be buried in nearby units.

Fragment of pine sacrificial planking.

Fragment of pine sacrificial planking.

We have been lucky this week in observing a number of local wildlife species. Kim spotted a sting ray just west of anchor A2, Julep managed to get some more video footage of the octopus still lurking around the pile, Danny was very excited by a dolphin escort one morning while we were headed out, and flounder are beginning to appear around the site.

Morning dolphin escort.

Morning dolphin escort.

Finally, a large batch of artifacts raised over the course of the previous three weeks was delivered to the QAR lab in Greenville on Friday.  Since so many of the concretions were oversized and too heavy for us to physically load them onto our trailer, we made use once again of the U.S. Coast Guard’s team of crane operators to assist us. Two cask hoop concretions, the lead sounding weight concretion, a deadeye strop concretion and a nail concretion were all loaded quickly and efficiently, and all the boxes of smaller finds were loaded up and transported to the lab.

We lost Greg and Jeremy with the end of the week – they were a tremendous help on site and will be sorely missed!

Nail concretion shortly after recovery.

Nail concretion shortly after recovery.

Stay tuned! We’ll be bringing you updates from September’s field work soon.

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Interns (left to right) Jeremy, Jeneva, and Greg

Interns (left to right) Jeremy, Jeneva, and Greg

The opening of a field season is always busy, and this year proved to be no exception. In our first two weeks of work, the team focused mostly on setup, laying out gridlines and placing sandbags around the perimeter of new excavation units. We recovered some artifacts, too. Here’s a brief overview:

Danny preparing to drill

Danny preparing to drill

Week 1: August 5-9

The opening week of the 2013 field season saw the team gathering supplies and readying R/V Jones Bay for diving. Once divers were in the water, they started laying gridlines over the pile and labeling new units nearby (246, 255-271).  The grid system not only aids the archaeologists in meticulously mapping in each artifact on the site plan, but the numbered squares also help divers to figure out where they are on those particularly low-visibility days.  Another new feature for this season is a set of white buoys attached to the ring of Anchor 2 (A2).  It’s yet another assurance of relative location when you descend into the murky water.  It’s nice to know where you are!

Kim (left) and Shanna (right) feeding cables to Danny and BJ on the bottom in order to take pH and corrosion potential readings

Kim (left) and Shanna (right) feeding cables to Danny and BJ on the bottom in order to take pH and corrosion potential readings

Billy Ray, Chris, Nathan and Julep all came up from Fort Fisher and were joined by Dave from Maritime Museum and Shanna from the QAR lab. Our four technicians, Laurel, Danny, B.J. and Matt were aided in their work by interns Greg, Jeremy and Jeneva. Although the weather was a bit overcast, the team managed to get four diving days on site and accomplished much!

Week 2: August 12-16

Greg (left) and Matt (right) recovering cannon C-26

Greg (left) and Matt (right) recovering cannon C-26

The team ushered in the second week by placing sandbags around the perimeter of new excavation units we intend to excavate in 2013.  Also, as part of an ongoing corrosion study, Danny and BJ located the artifacts anchor A2, cannon C-6, C-7, and C-8, which had all been outfitted with sacrificial zinc anodes.  They drilled through the concretion to expose bare metal, and using an electrode, they measured each artifact’s pH and corrosion potential, the figures for which will hopefully reflect that the anodes are performing as they should be in slowing down active corrosion.  The electrodes’ cables were connected to meters being monitored by conservators, Shanna and I, on the deck of the Jones Bay.

Even though we lost two days to bad weather, I used that time to my advantage, instructing a couple of our fearless interns. Jeremy and Jeneva, on how to process dredge spoil and seek out the small artifacts that are commonly found hiding in the sediment. Upon returning to site on Thursday, divers began removing ballast stones concreted to the pile, with the hopes that we can understand how to go about separating the large artifacts from each other. On Friday, we raised two cannon, C-26 and C-27, both two-pounders which had only been located in the previous field season. They were delivered to the lab and are currently keeping each other company in the same tank. We also had to say our goodbyes to one of our interns, Jeneva.  She was such a great part of the team, and we will all miss her!

Cannon C-26 and C-27 loaded onto the trailer and ready to be delivered to the QAR lab

Cannon C-26 and C-27 loaded onto the trailer and ready to be
delivered to the QAR lab

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By Kimberly Kenyon, QAR Conservator 

The QAR site plan for the fall 2013 season. Click on the image to see a larger version of it.

Fall 2013 site plan for the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck with new
excavation units shown in green. Click on the image to see a larger
version of it.

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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Headed to the Beaufort Pirate Invasion this weekend? Be sure and meet some of the staff from the Queen Anne’s Revenge (QAR) project team! Project director Billy Rae Morris and chief conservator Sarah Watkins-Kenney will be on-hand Saturday, August 10, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to:

  • Explain the conservation process for the cannon and other artifacts found at the shipwreck site of Blackbeard’s flagship, the QAR
  • Answer questions and discuss the project with visitors
  • Show off a cannon recovered from the QAR site that is currently in the process of conservation

The N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort will also be presenting three programs as part of the weekend’s festivities:

  • An Evening with Pyrates,” Thursday evening, which will feature a tour of the QAR exhibit, a lecture and live entertainment
  • A lecture on the differences between piracy in the 17th and 18th centuries and piracy today, on Friday afternoon at 2 p.m.
  • Family activities related to pirates all day Saturday. Kids will be able to get their own pirate tattoos, take part in a scavenger hunt to identify the rapscallions around town hear a few sea stories of life on the high seas among many other activities.

Visitors can also browse the museum’s extensive collection of artifacts from Blackbeard’s flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, throughout the weekend.

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Sec. Kluttz and Deputy Sec. Kevin Cherry open the Queen Anne’s Revenge exhibit at the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer

Actual treasures from Blackbeard’s flagship Queen Anne’s Revenge have made their way inland to Spencer, and Cultural Resources Sec. Susan Kluttz was on hand Saturday as the traveling exhibit Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge: 1718  made its debut at the N.C. Transportation Museum. A native and former mayor of Salisbury, the secretary knows the museum well and has visited it many times. At the opening, she was joined by Spencer Mayor Jody Everhart as well as representatives from the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority and N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation.

The exhibit—which started its popular showing at the Cultural Resources Western Office in Asheville earlier this summer—will be on display in at the Transportation Museum through August 31. It will then travel across the state to Historic Edenton for a run in September and October before visiting eight other state historic sites. Click here for a complete schedule.

In celebration of the exhibit, the Transportation Museum will host a Family Pirate Day this Saturday, July 27. The day’s events will include kids crafts and games and a treasure map scavenger hunt of the museum, complete with a prize at the end. Kids and adults who dress in pirate garb will receive discounted admission to the museum, and volunteer ‘pirates’ will be operating the museum’s regularly scheduled train rides as the “Pirate Express.” A pirate costume contest, where participants will “walk the plank” on the roundhouse turntable, will also be offered. The Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge: 1718 exhibit is included free as part of the regular admission price.

Please click here for more images of the opening and here for more information on the exhibit.

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Dive the QARWe almost constantly get requests to dive the wreck of Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge. Unfortunately, we’re usually unable to accommodate these requests because of the delicate nature of the shipwreck site. But now, thanks to partnership between the Cultural Resources’ Office of State Archaeology, our Underwater Archaeology Branch and the great folks at Visit North Carolina and the Crystal Coast Tourism Authority, you could win the chance to dive into Blackbeard’s rich history with a scuba diving excursion to the Queen Anne’s Revenge in the Vacation of a Lifetime promotion.

So now you’re next question is “I want to dive on the site, but how do I win?” The answer is pretty simple. Head over to this page and share a photo that shows what you see as Beauty Amplified in North Carolina. The picture has to be from North Carolina and it has to be yours, or in legalese, no one else can claim the rights to it.

Fill out the form on the site, choose the Queen Anne’s Revenge wreck diving experience as the prize you want to win and upload your photo. Then share it like crazy with your family and friends. Once your photo is shared 20 times, you’ll be eligible to win. Winners will be drawn at random on August 5, but entries have to be in by July 31.

One of the best parts of this deal is that you’ll get much more than just wreck dive experience (though we think that’s pretty cool it in its right). The total package includes:

  • An oceanfront condo for two courtesy of Atlantic Beach Realty
  • A tour of Blackbeard’s artifacts at the North Carolina Maritime Museum
  • Tickets to experience the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores and Beaufort Historic Site
  • A “Beaches and Banks Tour” from Southern Air
  • A ferryboat ride to Cape Lookout, where you’ll be able to picnic along the pristine shoreline with the option to climb the lighthouse for a spectacular view
  • Gift certificates toward fine dining at Circa 81, Bistro by the Sea and Amos Mosquito’s restaurants
  • A $1,000 Visa Gift Card to use toward travel expenses

Sounds amazing, right? Well it is! So pick out that photo you think shows Beauty Amplified in North Carolina best and enter today!

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A cannon is raised from the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck

Cultural Resources Sec. Susan Kluttz was one of the first people in almost 300 years to see cannons used on Blackbeard’s flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, as they were recovered from the seafloor late last week. The raising of the two cannons was the culmination of the spring dive season led by state archaeologists in concert with a number of partners and supporters.

She was thrilled to be able to witness such a momentous occasion.

“I’m so proud for North Carolina.” Sec. Kluttz told a reporter from the Jacksonville Daily News after seeing the first cannon raised. “This is such an incredible historic day for our state, and a thrill for me to see something come up from the ocean for the first time in nearly 300 years.”

After visiting the shipwreck site, the secretary also spent time meeting with key project supporters, including Bucky and Wendy Oliver, who hosted a boat trip to the site and whose support has been key in allowing work on the project to continue.

Sec. Kluttz observes the cannon raising.

The trip was a follow up to two trips held in previous weeks to the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort, where Sec. Kluttz got to see artifacts from the Queen Anne’s Revenge (QAR) project that have been fully conserved and participated in a live stream to nearly 500 classrooms around the country. She’s now seen three parts of the QAR process—underwater archeology, completed conservation and education—and she’s looking forward to seeing a fourth—conservation work in the lab—in the coming weeks.

Though the spring dive season is coming to a close, state archaeologists will head back to the site for a fall dive beginning in August and continuing through October. Check back here and on the project website for updates!

You can also click here to see more photos of the day’s events.

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By Sarah Watkins-Kenney, QAR Lab Director/Chief Conservator

This piece introduces the Queen Anne’s Revenge 12-Step conservation program, by briefly describing processes undertaken in each step of an object’s treatment.  Future blog posts reporting on the progress of different artifacts will identify which step or stage that piece has reached at that time.  In this way you can follow artifacts in their journey from ocean floor to museum door.

Step 1: Recovery

Step 1: Recovery

All artifacts recovered from the Queen Anne’s Revenge (wreck 31CR314) go through a 12 Step Program in their journey from ocean floor to museum door.  The amount of time, type and scope of actual treatment in each step depends on the nature of the object – including its material, size, condition and the type of artifact.

At any one time staff at the QAR Lab may be working with several different artifacts, all at different stages in their particular conservation program.  Over the coming weeks and months, we will report on conservation progress of different types of artifacts as they are treated, recorded and researched at the QAR Lab in Greenville.

Step 1: Recovery = planning, preparation and on-site conservation work which includes: assignment of QAR artifact identification numbers; recovery from seabed; documentation including as recovered photography; wet storage at the dockside and then transfer wet to QAR Lab.

Step 2: Post-Recovery Processing – Analysis I = documentation and cataloguing, measurement, counts, ,basic identification of materials, sorting & preparation for wet storage, creation of lab records, and inventory.

Step 3: Wet Storage = transfer to wet stable storage in solutions appropriate to the type of material. Monitoring solution levels and changing out solutions as needed.

Step 7: Cleaning II

Step 7: Cleaning II

Step 4: Analysis II = assessment & identification of materials, condition, and artifact type. This step includes X-radiography of concretions to “see what is inside” and identification of materials such as wood species.

Step 5: Cleaning I = pre-cleaning documentation including photography to record condition before treatment.  Removal of concretions as needed.

Step 6: Desalination = removal of soluble salts from all objects. For metals by electrolytic reduction (ER); for non-metals by soaking in water; measuring soluble salt levels in changes of solution monitors their extraction from objects.

Step 7: Cleaning II = removal of stains, fine concretion and desalination solution residues from object surfaces.

Step 8: Bulking, Consolidation, Drying = for example replacing water in wood with  Polyethylene Glycol Wax (PEG) followed by controlled air drying or freeze-drying ; and consolidation of glass prior to controlled drying.

Step 10: Analysis and Identification

Step 10: Analysis and Identification

Step 9: Protective coatings = for example, application of protective coatings (lacquers or waxes) to metal artifacts.

Step 10: Analysis III = final Examination & analysis to confirm identification of artifacts and materials made of.

Step 11: Repair/Reconstruction = for example, reconstruction of ceramic vessels, or construction of support mounts to ensure safe handling, and study.

Step 12: Final Documentation = Illustration, final photography, completion of records and documentation including recommendations for storage and display conditions, packing for transfer to the museum.

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­The Tank TeamOn what seemed like the wettest Saturday morning this year, Queen Anne’s Revenge Lab staff, East Carolina University (ECU) faculty and ECU Honors College Students met at the QAR Lab. Despite the cold and the rain all did excellent work!  We were really impressed with how everyone got stuck in with enthusiasm and efficiency whatever the task!  Two of the students were asked to be “journalists’ for the event. Below is their report on the mornings work with photos they took too. The QAR Lab staff would like to thank you all again!

Rainy Days, Spiders, and Anchors, Oh My!
By Sarah Burke and Megan Woodlief

Wet weather and chilly temperatures did little to stop a group of East Carolina University (ECU) Honors College students from participating in a service project at the QAR Lab on Saturday, February 23rd. The twenty five students split into groups after a brief tour of the facilities and assigned tasks that ranged from assisting in the preservation of artifacts to helping keep archived information organized.

The Archives TeamJackie Traish, a Music Performance and Science Education major, said she’d volunteered to come out because of her appreciation for history. “I came out to help because I wanted to be close to a piece of history. It’s amazing to see artifacts that have lasted 300 years.” Jackie was one of six students who spent their time in the lab’s warehouse working to maintain the conditions of the artifacts. Dubbing themselves the “Tank Team,” the students working in the warehouse removed and added freshwater to storage tanks, as well as returned crusted sodium bicarbonate back into full tanks. “The sodium bicarbonate helps maintain the chemistry of the water,” said Nursing major Sam Roebuck.  “It is important to keep things stable.”

Another group of students were assigned to research and received an impromptu physics lesson from Professor Kenney to aid them in the work. “We basically have to figure the best way to insulate the tank [shipping container] is,” said Applied Atmospheric Sciences major, Thomas Vaughan. “The insulation will ensure that artifacts are not exposed to extreme water temps as the weather changes throughout the year.”

Insulation Research on Honors College Day The services done by other students did not relate directly to artifact preservation, but were equally important. Biology major Adrian Modzik was assigned to the cleaning crew and helped vacuum parts of the lab. “My main job was to get rid of the spiders. There’s a BIG spider problem here.”

Martha Ervin’s group didn’t have to deal with the weather or creepy-crawlies – they were warm and dry in the office filing papers. “We actually went through all the files and switched from metal to plastic paper clips so that artifact documentation was not corroded,” said Martha, a Middle Grades Education major.

Despite the miserable weather, every student enjoyed their time spent at the QAR Lab. “We had a great time, and I hope to possibly come back and volunteer in the future,” said Hospitality Management major Megan Woodlief.

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