Michael Overfield

SEARCH FOR ADVENTURE.

(Under the direction of Professor Lawrence E. Babits) Department of History, July 2002.

This thesis reports on an historical and archaeological search for underwater anomalies that might identify the ship Adventure.  Adventure was one of two pirate vessels under the command of Edward Thache, that "run a-ground and wrecked" at Topsail Inlet, North Carolina during the first week of June 1718.  When Thache and his four ships attempted to enter Topsail Inlet, three vessels entered with little difficulty.  Thache's flagship, Queen Anne's Revenge (QAR), ran onto a sand bar outside the inlet's entrance.  Adventure went to assist Thache by pulling QAR off the bar.  While making her way to QAR, Adventure ran aground and wrecked.

A multi-disciplinary approach incorporating historical, geological, and archaeological methods will be used to investigate Adventure's sinking.  Depositions by David Harriot and Ignatius Pell given at the trial of Major Stede Bonnet were analyzed and evaluated in an attempt to narrow the search area within Beaufort Inlet.  Historical maps were reviewed, digitized, and overlaid on a current NOAA chart to determine the inlet's movement over the past 284 years.  Based upon information derived from maps, the primary search area was identified.

This thesis examines the early history of colonial Beaufort, North Carolina, the impacts of the Navigation Acts on North Carolina, and the attraction of pirates to this struggling colony.  An overview of eighteenth-century sloop construction and a comparative analysis of material culture found on the Queen Anne's Revenge and the Whydah Galley are included.  The wrecking process in a dynamic environment was also examined.  The rough wrecking and rapid inclusion into the inlet's sandy sediment, Adventure may have been protected from destructive forces that act upon wrecks exposed for any time.  The search involved both a magnetometer and side-scan sonar to provide electronic data for assessing the potential for Adventure's discovery.  Although the investigation did not find the remains of Adventure, the survey has identified features associated with the wrecking process Adventure may have undergone.

Adventure would represent one of the oldest wrecks and the first confirmed pirate vessel discovered in North Carolina.  Although the Adventure wreck site is expected to be scattered, discovery of the smallest remains may provide archaeologists and historians with a glimpse into the economy, society, and culture that operated the vessel.  The search for Adventure constitutes an important element in gaining a greater understanding of the life of pirates and man's past.