CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Circumstantial evidence is mounting that a shipwreck off the Atlantic coast is Blackbeard the pirate's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge.
Radiocarbon dating shows several pieces of wood taken from the wreckage near Beaufort Inlet were from the same time period as Blackbeard's ship, officials said recently.Scientists determined the wood was cut and milled about the time work was completed on Queen Anne's Revenge, a 90-foot former slave ship that sank in 1718.
Officials also displayed other items brought up from the wreck last fall: a pewter syringe; a brass swivel from a surveying instrument; a musket side plate or brace; a gold nugget weighing 2 grams; and a tiny piece of gold-specked lead shot.
State archaeologist Steve Claggett said it won't be known for certain that the ship was Blackbeard's unless divers find a bell or other item with the ship's name engraved on it.
The ship is one of 5,000 documented wrecks in North Carolina coastal waters, said Richard Lawrence, head of the state underwater archaeology unit.
"Everything continues to be consistent with the time period," Lawrence said. Evidence from the wreck about a mile off Fort Macon is consistent with Blackbeard's ship and not other wrecks during that time, he added.
Blackbeard, whose real name was Edward Teach, survived the wreck but was later captured and executed on North Carolina's Ocracoke Island.
Officials warned that the excavation of the wreck may be its undoing. Sand has covered the wreck for nearly 300 years, keeping away oxygen and organisms that deteriorate its wood. Now that archaeologists have uncovered parts, even though they were recovered after each expedition, the wreckage is showing more wear and tear.
"Now that it's exposed, it's going to be gone soon if we don't do something about it," said Phil Masters, president of Intersal Inc., a Florida firm that found the wreck and aided the state's research.
Claggett said his department says it would cost $5 million to $6 million to completely excavate the wreck, bring up all the artifacts divers could find and clean and conserve them. If legislators authorize less money, more limited searches could be undertaken.
Among the things divers have spotted on the ocean floor are 18 cannons. Only three have been brought up so far. The ship was believed to have 40 cannons on board.