NEWS, NOTES &
Friday, August 31, 2007
By Bethany Bradsher
QAR divers on the hunt
All rights reserved.
|This photo of
columnist Bethany Bradsher was taken last spring
while she was on a vessel in the vicinity of
Beaufort Inlet gathering information and interviews
for a feature story on recovery efforts related to
the shipwreck believed to be Queen Anne's Revenge.
The story was
previewed on this site
last month and appeared in full in the recent issue
Bonesville The Magazine.
This week, Bradsher got an optimistic update from
QAR project director Mark Wilde-Ramsing on a major
ongoing diving expedition to bring up artifacts.
For ten years, a group of underwater
archaeologists and other scientists have been chipping away at the
excavation of the wreck believed to be Blackbeard’s flagship vessel.
This fall, in just six weeks time, the crew will
likely raise more artifacts from the Queen Anne’s Revenge than were
collected in that entire decade. It’s a windfall that can only result from a
magic combination of ample state funds, ambitious planners and widespread
cooperation from state, federal and private entities.
Oh, and one more factor — the one with the power
to trump every other variable: clear weather for diving, both above and
below the surface.
“This week has just been absolutely gorgeous,”
QAR project director Mark Wilde-Ramsing said. “The wind shifted around, and
you could see 30 feet on the bottom which is very unusual. The speed that we
can work and feel comfortable with getting good information is many times
what you get when you can hardly see.
“We’re going to bring a quarter of the site up.”
The expedition team, led by QAR site director
Chris Southerly, set out last Wednesday and spent the rest of the week
preparing the site — putting up mooring lines, setting up a grid to
delineate the footprint of the wreck and other tasks — and testing
When they set out on Monday, they were geared up
for some real excavation. The diving during the past four days has centered
on two areas of the site — an area near the south edge of the site that
contains few artifacts larger than gold dust and lead shot and the heart of
the pile, in what was once the officer’s quarters, that houses at least five
cannon and an unknown number of other interesting items.
“Part of getting the equipment ready was to
start on the outshore edges and try to define the site,” Wilde-Ramsing said.
“Even though the larger artifacts are not scattered out that way, the
smaller leadshot and gold extends a little bit farther out than we thought.”
The more intense part of the dive, the stern
area where the officers once slept, has revealed not only cannon but goodies
like three pewter plates, an intact wine bottle, a little brass cup that was
used to weigh small items, and a couple of rolled lead pieces that could be
weights or sinkers for fishing.
“We found a mystery item, it looks like maybe a
whistle, or maybe it’s a piece of medical equipment,” Wilde-Ramsing said.
The team will bring those types of artifacts up
to the surface and transport them to the QAR Conservation Lab at the ECU
West Research Campus. But here’s where the expedition’s efficiency is
outpacing the QAR project’s resources: They can’t raise more than one cannon
at this point because they wouldn’t have enough space to conserve and store
the other four. They are hoping to rent a warehouse to supplement the space
in the Conservation Lab.
“The lab is not ready for that many big things,
so we’ll probably just move them over,” said Wilde-Ramsing, who is helping
to move the other cannons to a holding area adjacent to the wreck on the
The divers haven’t determined definitively which
cannon they will raise, although it’s possible that they’ll bring up C16,
the gun that was supposed to break the surface last spring on the day I
accompanied the divers out to the site on assignment for Bonesville The
Magazine. But the main determining factors in choosing the cannon will
be their condition and the number of smaller artifacts concreted with them.
The decision will be, which one is more of a
preservation risk,” Wilde-Ramsing said. “‘One certainly had a couple of
plates on it. They all seem to be very interesting. They all have things
hanging off of them, and there are all kinds of things around them.”
The divers have received invaluable assistance
from the U.S. Coast Guard, which offered the team the use of a six-bed berth
and a trailer to house the team for free, as well as reduced rates on meals
at the base. Fort Macon State Park has also supplied some rooms for other
One of the greatest benefits of the housing
arrangements is the close proximity to the launch site for the boat, which
is located near Fort Macon. With more than a month of dives left, the team
will be sustained by kindnesses like the Coast Guard’s and those forays into
perfectly clear water on the ocean floor.
The leaders of the group set November 9 for the
final day of the dive, but Wilde-Ramsing said that the expedition might
actually conclude earlier that if things continue to go smoothly, because
the team will have accomplished the pre-established goals of this, the
longest and most effective dive in the QAR wreck’s history.
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08/31/2007 04:47:51 AM