Blackbeard's anchor lifted from sea after 293 years



Blackbeard's anchor lifted from sea after 293 years

Jay Price - McClatchy Newspapers

ABOARD THE R/V DAN MOORE The tensest moment came as a hydraulic crane lifted the massive anchor from Blackbeard's flagship clear of the sea for the first time since the Queen Anne's Revenge sank nearly 300 years ago.

The waves just off Atlantic Beach were a little too large, and dozens of researchers, state history officials and journalists watched, transfixed as crewmembers of the Research Vessel Dan Moore - two on ropes and one at the controls of the hydraulic lift - tried to stop the nearly 3,000-pound anchor from swinging out of control.

In the water, two divers who had lifted it to the surface with airbags looked up, helpless.

The anchor immediately banged into the hull side as Billy Carlson, on a platform overlooking the deck, yanked at the control levers, trying to time the swings to get it safely aboard.

Another wave, and the anchor swooped forward. One more time, it swung back, whacking hard into a steel support in the rear of the ship before Carlson deftly spun the crane to bring the anchor right over the center of the deck and eased it down to rest.

"Steady hands, Billy, good work!" shouted the Dan Moore's captain, Steve Beuth, as members of the Queen Anne's Revenge recovery team applauded.

And just like that, it happened. The anchor was no longer a utilitarian item stowed away in the dank ship's hold by a crew of the 18th century's most hated lowlifes just in case they needed a spare. It was no longer a chunk of rusting iron gathering barnacles on the sea floor.

Its first moments as a celebrity began.

This was the first of the ship's four large anchors to be brought ashore, and the largest item yet recovered from the wreck since its discovery in 1996. Visually, it was the most distinctive and recognizable item, with its artfully shaped flukes and a giant ring, big enough for a child to crawl through, where the anchor chain would have attached.

Researchers have brought up tens of thousands of objects from the wreck, including several cannons, which required similar recovery techniques. On paper, such operations look as straightforward as hooking up a car to a tow truck and driving off. It's never that simple, though, at sea.

For starters, weather is a critical factor; indeed the operation was delayed a day because of heavy seas. And the wreck can still spring surprises. This wasn't even the anchor that was supposed to come up. The dive team went down for one last check Monday and found that the intended anchor, which is slightly larger, was fused to too many other heavy items to recover easily or without disturbing the main pile of artifacts. So they decided that another anchor, which wasn't fastened to the pile, would be a smarter choice.

"It's a little like a game of pick-up sticks," said Nathan Henry, conservator for the state's underwater archaeology branch. "You get one, then another, and it starts to get easier and easier."

They hope next week to dig a test hole from the side of the pile where the anchor was to get a sense of what they'll face when they excavate the pile.

Meanwhile, the anchor pulled up Friday took a bit of a star turn. When it arrived at the state ports authority in Morehead City, N.C., state and local officials were waiting, cameras ready. Even a port security guard snapped a few shots with his camera phone. Various permutations of the ship's crew and recovery team posed for official pictures behind the anchor, growling "Arrrr!" instead of saying cheese.

Then the recovery team trucked it to the Crystal Coast Visitors Center, where people were waiting. Passing motorists blew their horns.

Befitting a celebrity of a certain age, the giant anchor will soon get a facelift and makeover. After a quick stop at the visitors center, it was taken to a massive conservation facility in rural Pitt County.

It can take five years or more to clean a large metal artifact like an anchor. The state hopes to have it ready for display in plenty of time for the 300th anniversary of the ship's sinking, in 2018.

State officials hope to have the wreck site fully excavated by the end of 2013. State officials hope to raise private funding of about $100,000 for each of the next three years to pay for the dives, said Ken Howard, director of the N.C. Museum of History.

An even bigger dream is a yet-unfunded new maritime museum on the edge of Beaufort, N.C. The land has been bought, but not the building, which state officials hope will have three or four times the exhibit space of the current downtown museum. It would have three galleries, one dedicated entirely to the Queen Anne's Revenge.

Then, the new star will have a permanent home.





Blackbeards Anchor to Free Resume Website