Arsenal of the Dread Pirate Blackbeard: Photos

June 10, 2011 --

Blackbeard, believed to have been born Edward Teach, or Edward Thatch, in Bristol in 1680, was a real pirate of the Caribbean. A tall man with thick black hair and beard, which he braided and decorated with burning wicks to give him a devilish look, Blackbeard commanded four vessels and 300 pirates in his heyday, terrorizing the seas from the American colonies to the Caribbean.

Originally a French slave ship that Blackbeard captured in November 1717 near the island of Martinique, the Queen Anne's Revenge sunk in 1718 while attempting to enter Beaufort Inlet, N.C. A recent diving expedition, the latest of many since the wreck was discovered in 1996, successfully lifted from the ocean floor a 1.4-ton (3,000-pound) anchor for the first time in 293 years. The expedition also identified three metallic clusters, which are likely to contain improvised weapons and missiles employed by the pirate to strike terror on enemy ships.

The archaeologists found 24 cannons within the wreckage. Of the five that have been cleaned, four were loaded and one had three nine-inch bolts in front of the cannon ball, which would have been very destructive if fired.

Blackbeard used improvised weapons and missiles to strike terror on enemy ships. As a result of Blackbeard's effort, sailors often surrendered their intact merchant ships without a fight. The improvised weapons likely consist of what previous expeditions have already found: lead shot, nails and glass, which were put in canvas bags and fired from the cannons. Historical evidence indicates that Blackbeard also put the same mixture along with gunpowder into bottles with a wick. After lighting it, he tossed it onto the deck of opposing ships when at close range.

The archaeologists also found the remains of another frightening contraption: two identical cannon balls linked by an iron bar or chain. Producing a spinning effect when fired from cannon, these contrivances were used at close range to slash through the rigging of an enemy ship.

This hilt is thought to be that of Blackbeard’s own sword, which he probably used when attacking the ships.

Blackbeard’s menacing reign aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge was a short lived one. The pirate lost his flagship 293 years ago today, on June 10, 1718. Five months later, he was killed in a bloody battle at Ocracoke Inlet, his head cut off and his body tossed overboard.