Archaeologists late last week recovered a cannon off the North Carolina coast that famed pirate Blackbeard once employed to terrorize shipping along the Atlantic seaboard nearly 300 years ago.
The instrument of war was covered in sand and concrete-like accretions of sand and barnacles.
The cannon is 8 feet long and weighs 2,000 pounds, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
It is estimated it will take archaeologists and students at East Carolina University as much as eight years to get down to the bronze cannon, according to Jennifer Woodward, secretary of the NC Department of Cultural Resources, which oversees the project.
“It looks like it’s covered in concretions, with cement all around it, and there will be lots of things attached to it,” Woodward told ABC News.
Woodward said that in past recoveries of cannons from the ship, bits of rope, lead shot, and gold dust had been found encased with the recovered artifact, according to ABC.
Researchers have also found wine glass stems and a leg shackle, likely used in the slave trade, Woodward said. Twelve cannons have been lifted from the ship so far.
Blackbeard’s ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, was a 300-ton vessel built in England in 1710. Originally named the Concord, she was captured by the French in 1711 and modified to hold more cargo, including slaves, and renamed La Concorde de Nantes.
The vessel was captured by the pirate Captain Benjamin Hornigold in November 1717, near the island of Martinique. Hornigold turned her over to one of his men – Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard – and made him her captain.
Not content with the 26 cannons she was already carrying, Blackbeard increased the number to 40.
These weapons could be loaded with large cannon balls to damage hulls, grapeshot or canister shot to clear decks of enemy sailors or soldiers, or chain shot (two small cannonballs chained together) to damage enemy masts and rigging.
When necessary, just about anything could be loaded into a cannon and fired: nails, bits of glass, rocks, scrap metal and so forth. In close quarters, it proved devastating.
Blackbeard successfully blockaded the harbor in Charleston, where he demanded money and goods from the townspeople for weeks.
He used Ocracoke on the Outer Banks of North Carolina as his base of operations and it was there that he met his demise in 1718. The Queen Anne’s Revenge was serving as part of a four-vessel pirate flotilla when it ran aground in 1718 beside the inlet leading to Beaufort and abandoned.
The wreck was found a little more than a mile off the beach in 1996 by a private salvage company.
The recovery of artifacts has been going on since 1997, and is expected to last until 2013, said Lauren Hermley, a researcher with the NC Department of Cultural Resources.
Artifacts from the ship are on display in North Carolina museums and museums around the country. It is the largest underwater archeological project in the country, she noted.
Divers began preparing the ship weeks ago for the crane that eventually pulled the cannon to the surface today. The sand-encased cannon will be taken to the Beaufort (NC) Maritime Museum for public viewing, and then moved to East Carolina University where researchers will work on it.
(Above: Researchers led by the NC Department of Cultural Resources recover a cannon from the wreck of the pirate Blackbeard’s ship. Photo by the Christian Science Monitor.)