It’s been speculated that Blackbeard intentionally ran his flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, aground near Beaufort in 1718. Now, more than 300 years later, new research from East Carolina University in Greenville shows that theory may hold water.
Dozens of artifacts recovered from the wreck of the Queen Anne’s Revenge about a mile off the coast suggests the vessel was riddled with leaks and was repaired using sheets of lead. Jeremy Borrelli, staff archaeologist at ECU’s Department of History’s Maritime Studies program, said long strips of sheet lead were used to cover the outer hull planking of a ship.
“As the ship works through the water, that was an area where the caulking that kept the ship watertight would come loose. So they would apply sheet lead to the seams of those hull planks to try to protect and seal in the caulking material,” said Borrelli.
Additionally, historical records show that before Blackbeard captured the vessel, it was already badly damaged. The 103 foot long ship, which was previously named the La Concorde, developed significant leaks in the hull during a privateering voyage to the Caribbean in 1711-1712.
“When Blackbeard took the ship,” Borrelli said, “he decided to keep several members of the French crew including the pilot, the caulker, and two carpenters. Those individuals would have had a good working knowledge of what the condition of the hull would have been.”
After Blackbeard grounded the Queen Anne’s Revenge in 1718, one of the crew members named David Harriot was captured. Borrelli said Harriot recounted during his trial that he believed Blackbeard intentionally grounded the vessel.
Borrelli's research was recently published in the International Journal of Nautical Archeology. While physical evidence and historical records indicate that Blackbeard may have scuttled the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Borrelli says it’s still too soon to say for sure what happened to the ship. Since the wreck site was discovered in 1996, underwater archaeologists have recovered about 60% of the artifacts from the vessel’s final resting place just offshore of Fort Macon State Park. Borrelli believes recovering more artifacts is the key to solving this three-century-old mystery.