Posts Tagged ‘maritime history’

This post is by Sarah Watkins-Kenney, QAR Lab Director and the Underwater Archaeology Branch’s Chief Conservator.

The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources Queen Anne’s Revenge Conservation Laboratory (QAR Lab) is primarily tasked with the examination, conservation, documentation, and study of artifacts recovered from the shipwreck NCDCR314; Queen Anne’s Revenge (QAR), flagship of the pirate Blackbeard, which sank in 1718. The QAR Lab has been located at East Carolina University (ECU) since 2003.  Established under a Memorandum of Agreement between NCDCR and ECU its operation is a partnership to “…promote their mutual goals of archaeological and historical research on this important site and the era in North Carolina and world history that it represents.” ECU provides facility services, student graduate assistants, and consultation with faculty, while NCDCR is responsible for management of the shipwreck site and direction of the QAR Lab. There is also close collaboration with the N.C. Maritime Museum (NCMM) in Beaufort, which, as the final repository for treated artifacts, is responsible for their long-term care and interpretation to the public.

ECU’s West Research Campus (ECU-WRC) is an excellent location for the QAR Lab with good ground level access to buildings for large vehicles and artifacts and space with the potential for development and expansion of conservation as well as research and education activities. The QAR Lab includes: a wet/dirty small objects lab; clean-work lab; larger wet/dirty lab; photographic studio; x-radiography system; office and documentation room. Also, one of the large warehouses on the site is equipped for the storage and treatment of large objects (cannon, ships timbers) and electrolytic reduction treatment of metal finds.

QAR artifact related operations range from in-situ monitoring and preservation, to recovery (including inventory, field storage and transportation of artifacts), and conservation (stable storage, examination and analysis, cleaning, stabilization, data management, and study of artifacts), through to transfer to the North Carolina Maritime Museums  repository and display.  The Lab is staffed by three permanent NCDCR staff:  QAR Lab Director/Chief Conservator; QAR Conservator/Lab Manager; and QAR Conservator. In addition, depending on annual budgets there are one to three temporary conservation positions, as well as two to six graduate assistants, and volunteers.

As a working conservation lab linked to a major on-going archaeological project, the QAR Lab provides a unique resource for artifact studies as well as for research opportunities and education in conserving artifacts from a marine environment for students and researchers at ECU and for a wider community of archaeologists, museum staff, and other professionals.  Work undertaken by the lab is guided by professional codes of practice as defined by the American Institute for Conservation. The QAR Lab disseminates information on work done through publications and presentations at seminars and conferences and the project’s website.

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Blackbeard is perhaps the best known of the pirates who haunted our coast in the 1700s.  But did you know that the bloodiest pirate battle in North Carolina history did not involve him?  Rather, it was at the hands of one of his protégés in the waters off what is now Southport, N.C.

Stede Bonnet gave up a life among the planter elite on Barbados to become a pirate in 1717.  He was known as the “Gentleman Pirate,” not so much for the way he behaved, but for his dress and for the way he launched his piratical career.  Instead of capturing a vessel, he purchased and armed a ship, naming it the Revenge, and he hired a crew – yes he paid them.  I wonder what that job interview was like?

Stede Bonnet

Stede Bonnet in an early 18th century engraving by an artist who had never seen the pirate.

The novice pirate entered the North American shipping lanes and began plundering.  Blackbeard, partnering with Bonnet, captured the ship that he would call Queen Anne’s Revenge while commanding Bonnet’s Revenge.  The two joined forces a few times; in fact, Bonnet was aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge during Blackbeard’s weeklong blockade of Charleston, S.C.  Following Blackbeard’s grounding of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Bonnet returned to solo pirating, capturing over a dozen ships.

In August, 1718, he established a base near present-day Southport, since the Cape Fear estuary offered a secluded place to rest and re-outfit.  Because of the Charleston incident, South Carolina’s governor sent ships in search of pirates.  They found Bonnet on September 27.  A fierce battle ensued, ending with the surviving pirates’ surrender after six hours.  Stede Bonnet was hanged on December 10, 1718, effectively ending the “Golden Age of Piracy” in North Carolina.

You can see the historical marker about Stede Bonnet, placed near a creek and a neighborhood sporting his name in Southport.  The North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport features a display about him.  But, one of the coolest ways to spend an evening is with Southport’s Captain Bert Felton, who will take you out in his restored 1938 workboat to where the battle took place.  He offers a fantastic, history-filled cruise.

There is no better way to take in the history and natural history of the Southport area than a tour with Captain Bert Felton in his restored 1938 work boat, the Solomon T.

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