Monday, October 18, 2010

Blackbeard Lives Again

It’s a beautiful day at sea. The sun is warm, the breeze whipping through the canvas sails. You hear the spotter’s cry and look over your shoulder. Fear slams you in the gut like a cannonball: You and your crew are being followed, and the menacing phantom behind you is flying no quarter.

This is no imaginary story. Over two hundred years ago, a two hundred ton wooden ship called The Queen Anne’s Revenge did just that. And her captain was the elusive Edward Teach. Pirates roamed the Caribbean and eastern seaboard of America during the Golden Age of Piracy, and the most famous of them all, Edward Teach, known as Blackbeard, has returned.

In 1996 Governor James Hunt of North Carolina announced that Blackbeard’s flagship had been discovered. A research firm searching Beaufort’s Inlet off the coast of North Carolina came across the heavily armed remains of a frigate in the presumed location of The Queen Anne. State underwater archeologists were called out and more than a decade later, the booty from Blackbeard’s most notorious prize has risen from the murky depths.

The Queen Anne was originally a French slave ship known as La Concorde. Easily captured by Blackbeard and his wily sloops off the coast of Martinique in 1717, the re-christened frigate became the flagship for the swelling party of pirates. They spent several months pillaging the Caribbean before turning toward the Carolinas. There, Blackbeard attempted to lay siege to the city of Charleston, and after a rather successful week, accepted a medicine chest in exchange for his prisoners.

Weeks later, around the 10th of June, 1818, The Queen Anne’s Revenge and her party ran aground attempting to enter Beaufort’s Inlet. Blackbeard and his crew had plenty of time to remove their valuables, and he escaped with a few of his faithful crew to Ocracoke Island along the outer banks. As The Queen Anne settled into her watery grave, her captain escaped death for almost six more months. Robert Maynard, a Royal Navy lieutenant, tracked him down, and the officer and pirate dueled to the death aboard the naval sloop, Jane. Blackbeard was beheaded, and his head hung from the Jane’s bowsprit in celebration. A fitting end to a fearless and troublesome buccaneer.

So what has The Queen Anne revealed? State archeologists working with the North Carolina Maritime Museum have spend the last ten years carefully dredging, sifting, cleaning and cataloguing artifacts. Because of the wreck’s location, it is agreed that it will eventually disappear due to storms and currents, thus the careful resurfacing of the precious cargo. The list is impressive. Items range from glass bottles, pewter dinnerware, and parts of small firearms, to cannons, an anchor, and ballast. Clues such as syringes hint that the men were treating themselves, probably for syphilis, a common companion. Evidence of cattle, fish, and pig bones speak of a varied diet aboard ship at the time of her demise.

What is it about pirates that fill us with excitement? Tropical islands? Buried treasure? Even before Robert Louis Stevenson penned TREASURE ISAND in 1883, man has always dreamed of adventure at sea. Disney’s 2003 film, “Pirates of the Caribbean” renewed public interest and affection for those scallywags, but the truth is, some of them were very dangerous men.

It’s believed that Blackbeard was a part of the Queen Anne’s War (1701) where he served as a privateer. This evidence shows that not all pirates started out as criminals. Many were drafted into the lifestyle by the point of the sword, having no choice when their ships were captured. It was these men, and those small boys, that often paid for piracy with their lives.

You can find out more about The Queen Anne’s recovery at

You can view astounding footage documented by Nautilus Productions at

After that, dive into a good book such as my pirate ship treasure hunt, BY HEART AND COMPASS, available at Desert Breeze Publishing and other online bookstores. You may just find the kind of pirate you’ve been looking for.

Danielle Thorne

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Danielle Thorne is the author of THE PRIVATEER, a 1729 historical about British privateering in the Caribbean and TURTLE SOUP, a sweet contemporary romance set between Atlanta and St. Thomas. Her shipwreck adventure, BY HEART AND COMPASS, is available now. Her first Jane Austen-inspired Regency, JOSETTE, has been contracted by Whimsical Publications for Winter 2010.

Danielle currently writes from south of Atlanta, Georgia. She was the 2009-2010 Co-Chair for the New Voices Competition for young writers, is active with online author groups such as Classic Romance Revival and EPIC, and moderates for The Sweetest Romance Authors at the Coffee Time Romance boards. Danielle reviews for online review sites and edits for two publishing houses and Romance Junkies. She lives with four sons and her husband, who is an air traffic controller. Together they enjoy travel and the outdoors, Marching Band competition, and BSA Scouting.


Maggi Andersen said...

Interesting Danielle. Many of the wrecks along the Australian coast are used now as a playground for divers. What intriguing secrets they reveal of the past.

Keena Kincaid said...

Intriguing. I remember when the find was announced, but have heard very little about it since. Thanks for the update.

However, but I don't find pirates at all romantic. Is it just me?