Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Blackbeard's Ship? Marine Scientists Contribute To Research On Vessel Sunk Off North Carolina Coast

Date:
December 15, 1998
Source:
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill
Summary:
Using the scientific equivalent of a fine-toothed comb, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill marine scientists are part of a state team of archeologists and university faculty painstakingly studying a sailing ship that sank three centuries ago off the North Carolina coast. Researchers now strongly believe -- but have not proven -- the vessel was the "Queen Anne's Revenge," seized from French slavers by the pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard.

CHAPEL HILL - Using the scientific equivalent of a fine-toothed comb, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill marine scientists are part of a state team of archeologists and university faculty painstakingly studying a sailing ship that sank three centuries ago off the North Carolina coast.

Researchers now strongly believe -- but have not proven -- the vessel was the "Queen Anne's Revenge," seized from French slavers by the pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. That ship went down near Beaufort (N.C.) Inlet in 1718 a few months before Teach's death, and the wreck was discovered in November 1996.

Even atomic bombs exploded in the 1950s and 1960s may offer clues to what happened at the site since the sinking.

Drs. John T. Wells, professor and director of UNC-CH's Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City, Christopher Martens, William B. Aycock professor of marine sciences, and Neils Lindquist, associate professor at the institute, joined the effort as a public service and out of "pure curiosity."

"We got involved in this project at the request of the state's underwater archaeology unit to see if techniques we use could be brought to bear on unraveling some of the environmental sciences and physical sciences aspects of the wreck site," Wells said. "We felt that being able to offer some expertise the unit didn't already have was a great opportunity for us and for the state, especially since the wreck is practically right at the institute's back door."

A geologist, Wells has been electronically digitizing old maps and marine charts of the wreck site and the surrounding area produced since the early-1700s to compare with modern charts and conditions. One goal is to create a history of changes over time such as shifting sands and a three-foot rise in sea level.

"We are trying not only to understand what happened to the sea and the shore in the area, but also to see the frequency of change, what hurricanes did, how sand shoals moved, how barrier islands such as Shackleford eroded and how Beaufort Inlet naturally realigned itself over time," he said.

When completed, the work - delayed by Hurricane Bonnie -- will be the most rigorous analysis of maps and charts of the area ever done, Wells said. Preliminary information showed Beaufort Inlet's orientation "flopped around tremendously" over the past three centuries, even more than was suspected.

Also, he is studying the ebb tide delta - a huge "halo" of sand - that sits at the inlet mouth and would block ship traffic if not for frequent dredging. Recent data, which already suggest the wreck site silted in and was less than a meter deep in the early 1800s, may provide clues to why the ship sank. It now sits under 25 feet of water.

Martens radiocarbon-dates wood samples from the hull and anchor stocks brought up in October and other organic material such as horsehair forced into cracks between planks to seal the hull.

"Because its extreme accuracy, we are using the accelerator mass spectrometer facility at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod to date these valuable samples," Martens said. "Since the ship sank in the early 1700s, we expect the oldest wood to be between 300 and 400 years old."

A second effort is to establish whether artifacts such as ballast stones and hull planks have shifted in the last 50 years. Since radioisotopes such as cesium-137 and plutonium-239 and 240 from atmospheric nuclear testing have accumulated in most marine sediments worldwide, Martens should be able to detect any later wreck movement by analyzing sediments cored from beneath the oak hull.

"We won't find the bomb-produced radioisotopes directly under the hull or stones unless they have moved due to storms or other events," he said. "That should tell us something about the impact of storms. It also is possible that burrowing organisms excavated under the hull."

Lindquist is studying corals and various encrusting organisms on the remaining wood and artifacts that have been recovered such as cannons, anchors, bottles, pieces of brass and ballast stones. He hopes to determine which parts of the wreck have been exposed periodically as waves and tides flushed sediments around and over it and when the exposure occurred. Other encrusting organisms of potential use in dating the wreck's history include coralline algae, bryozoans, barnacles and sea whips.

An electromagnetic current meter and wave sensor deployed earlier this year and moored on the sea floor at the site is providing details of storms, waves, tides and current speed and direction that have acted on the wreck, Wells said.

"The N.C. Division of Archives and History and its underwater archaeology unit has given us a great opportunity to help answer some very challenging scientific and intellectual questions," he said. "We are all excited about the multi-faceted team effort and about not only what we have learned so far, but what we will learn over the next year as well."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. "Blackbeard's Ship? Marine Scientists Contribute To Research On Vessel Sunk Off North Carolina Coast." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 December 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/12/981215080722.htm>.
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. (1998, December 15). Blackbeard's Ship? Marine Scientists Contribute To Research On Vessel Sunk Off North Carolina Coast. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/12/981215080722.htm
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. "Blackbeard's Ship? Marine Scientists Contribute To Research On Vessel Sunk Off North Carolina Coast." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/12/981215080722.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) A ceremony marking 50 years since Japan launched its Shinkansen bullet train was held on Wednesday in Tokyo. The latest model can travel from Tokyo to Osaka, a distance of 319 miles, in two hours and 25 minutes. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Battle of New Orleans Cannon Gets New Carriage

Battle of New Orleans Cannon Gets New Carriage

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) A Spanish cannon used in the Battle of New Orleans and weighing nearly 3 tons was lowered Tuesday by pulleys, chains and muscle onto a new gun carriage like one that might have held it once aboard a navy ship. (Sept. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) A 2,000 year-old Pre-Inca cloak that is believed to represent an agricultural calendar of the Paracas culture is on display in Lima. Duration: 00:39 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) Considered lost for over two centuries, the original manuscript of one of the most famous works of Mozart's Sonata in A major has been uncovered in a library in Budapest. Duration: 01:04 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins