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Conservator gives inside look at cleaning Blackbeard's cannons

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GREENVILLE, N.C. -

More than half a dozen archaeological treasures are off the ocean floor, getting ready for museum display.

They're 18th century cannons from Blackbeard's flagship, Queen Anne's Revenge, pulled from the ocean in Carteret County.

Now they are in the hands of state conservators in Pitt County.

Blackbeard, the notorious pirate, used the cannons to intimidate his victims before stealing their ships, said Sarah Watkins-Kenney, director of the Queen Anne's Revenge Conservation Lab in Greenville.

"Each gun weighs about 2,000 pounds," said Watkins-Kenney.

On Monday divers pulled five cannons and two other objects from Blackbeard's flagship near the Beaufort Inlet. It was the single largest cannon recovery they've ever had.

"As they are in the tanks is exactly how they came up from the ocean," said Watkins-Kenney.

The cannons are covered in barnacles and other marine life that staff members like Courtney Page will have to carefully chisel off before they can be put on display at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort.

"I really like being able to be one of the first people to touch these artifacts," said Page, an ECU grad student and QAR conservation manager.

Part of the reason the barnacles have to be chiseled off so carefully is because there could be other artifacts underneath, like pipes, plates, or even ceramic vessels.

"We'll use hand tools like small chisels or dental tools even [to clean the cannons]," said Watkins-Kenney.

The cannons also have to be soaked in a salt-removing chemical, treated with tannic acid, lacquered, and waxed.

A process that takes 3-4 years and costs $30,000 per cannon.

"The major cost is paying someone to do the work," said Watkins-Kenney.

The money comes from a mixture of state funds, grants, donations, and other sources.

And although the artifacts are not as attractive as a pirate's treasure chest, they're just as valuable for their archaeological significance.

The QAR project started back in 1996. So far divers have pulled up 30 cannons from the shipwreck, but there are still at least 8 more down there, said Watkins-Kenney.

The artifacts give a glimpse into how pirates lived and used their ship.

 -- Previous story --

Researchers studying the Queen Anne's Revenge pulled out the big guns Monday.
     
They lifted five cannons from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean this morning.

It's the biggest "catch" of cannons recovered at one time.
     
All the cast-iron cannons fired six pound cannon balls and will bring the total to 20 cannons raised from the site. They weigh between 2 and 3,000 pounds each.
      
Altogether about 280,000 artifacts have been recovered and full recovery is planned by 2014.

Read more: http://www.dvidshub.net/image/1042516/cannons-pirate-ship-recovered-beaufort-inlet-NC#.UnBrzhBw9XE#ixzz2jATvQ4me

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