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ship anchor

Myron Rolston, archeological technician, keeps the anchor wet while it is displayed at the East Carolina University West Research Campus in Greenville. It will take four to six months to clean the anchor with preservation taking two to three years. Photos by Cliff Hollis.

Work continues on artifacts from reputed Queen Anne’s Revenge

By Jeannine Manning Hutson

In mid-October, an anchor from a shipwreck believed to be the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard’s flagship, was brought up from the waters of Beaufort Inlet and transported to the conservation lab at East Carolina University.

The cleaning and preservation will take place at the university’s West Research Campus that houses the Queen Anne’s Revenge Conservation Lab, a partnership between ECU and the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

On Oct. 22, the anchor was displayed at the N.C. Maritime Museum in the morning and then taken to the QAR Lab. Looking at the artifact, the form of the 4-foot-6-inch anchor can be seen under the encrusted material that has formed on it during its almost 300 years in the sea.  

Dr. Mark Wilde-Ramsing, QAR project director, said, “The anchor was in 25 feet of water and came up easy.” The small anchor would have been used to secure a smaller boat to the Queen Anne’s Revenge. The anchor, or grapnel, weighs about 160 pounds, including the encrusted material. Originally it weighed approximately 80 pounds and had four or five prongs but has one and a-half now.
Shanna Daniel, assistant conservator, talks about the anchor that was brought up Oct. 21 from the shipwreck believed to be the Queen Anne’s Revenge. The 18th century shipwreck was found in 1996 in Beaufort Inlet.

The 18th century shipwreck has endured 15 named hurricanes since 1996, when it was found in Beaufort Inlet. The site is within three miles of the coast and thus in state waters. Work began in 1997 to bring artifacts to the surface with full excavation of the site beginning in 2006.

The decision was made to bring the anchor up in October when archaeologists and conservators determined another storm season might disrupt the anchor enough to work it loose from its almost 300-year site.

Since its arrival at the QAR Lab, the anchor has been photographed extensively, according to Wendy Welsh, assistant conservator.

“It’s stored in sodium carbonate to prevent any further corrosion to the exposed metal. We’re not sure when we’ll begin cleaning it, because we need to X-ray it first to see what the condition the metal is in,” she said. To clean the objects, the concretion (or the solid mass of mineral deposits and other materials) must be removed along with the soluble salts in the metal to make the object stable to be studied, handled and displayed.

Eventually the anchor and all of the artifacts will be part of the collection at the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort.

The Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck site has been winterized and no fieldwork is expected for several months. “However, we do try to get out there every two months to monitor the corrosion rates on our anchors,” Welsh said.

As funding permits, divers will continue for three or four more years to bring artifacts to be cleaned and conserved. So far, thousands of artifacts have been pulled from the Beaufort Inlet wreck, including cannons and two bells that may have been part of the ship or may have been cargo.

Approximately 80 artifacts, in various stages of conservation, are on loan from the QAR Lab to the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh for the “Knights of the Black Flag” exhibit, which continues through Jan. 3. Items on display include pewter plates, ceramic shards, pipe stems, crown/window glass shards, wine bottle base shards, cannon apron, lead strips, gunflints, copper alloy buckles, nesting weights, chart dividers, spigot valve and hundreds of gold grains with two gold jewelry fragments.

Museumgoers will also see 11 concretions as they were recovered from the site and some will have an X-ray displayed to illustrate the artifact. Visit for more information on the exhibit.

The Queen Anne’s Revenge originally was a French slave ship, La Concorde, measuring 90 to 100-feet long with three masts and a crew of 150 to 200. Blackbeard captured La Concorde in 1717 and renamed it before the ship ran aground in 1718 near what is today Fort Macon State Park.
To find out more about the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck project visit

This story appeared originally in the Nov. 24, 2009 issue of Pieces of Eight. An archived version of that issue is available at