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North Carolina's Crystal Coast offers quiet beach vacation with pirate adventures

Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Travel News

EMERALD ISLE, N.C. -- Sitting on the beach, watching the waves roll in off the Atlantic, it's hard to imagine the Queen Anne's Revenge, a 17th century frigate notoriously captained by the pirate Blackbeard, slinking along the horizon with a flotilla of smaller sloops.

And yet, 300 years ago, people living on the North Carolina coast very well may have seen the pirate ship seeking safe haven along these shores after a round of looting in the Caribbean port cities and Charleston, S.C.

The Outer Banks region and the barrier islands just to the south, known as the Crystal Coast, were the stomping grounds of Blackbeard, whose given name, historians say, was likely Edward Teach or Edward Thatch. The region is gearing up to mark the 300-year anniversary of when the famed pirate arrived on its banks in 1718.

Tales were told for centuries about how the Queen Anne's Revenge, the flagship of the pirate's small armada, was lost after running aground in these coastal waters. In 1996, its remains were found in a sandbar in Beaufort Inlet.

Now, visitors can see artifacts from the frigate at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, and take part in all kinds of adventures tied to the infamous pirate, who with his crew commandeered the slave ship La Concorde in the eastern Caribbean, and renamed it the Queen Anne's Revenge.

"In our exhibit, we've got quite a number of artifacts from cannons to cannonballs and grenades," said David Cartier, public relations coordinator for the North Carolina Maritime Museums, who noted it also has the ship's bell on display.

"You'll find a lab inside the exhibit which will talk about the conservation process and what's involved in really restoring these artifacts. People think if you pull up a cannon it's going to be at the museum right away -- but many of these cannons are being worked on for seven, to eight to 10 years before they're of museum quality. It takes a long time.

"The first day that the lab opened, they found gold dust. They actually vacuum the ocean floor, and they pull up minute things that you wouldn't expect. ... It's just amazing what they can find."

Many artifacts from the ship remain on the sea floor today, yet to be excavated.

"It's a work in progress, and unlike a typical shipwreck, Blackbeard ran the ship aground," Cartier said. "Normally in a shipwreck, debris is strewn all over the ocean floor. But this one basically sank, so the site is not as big as you'd normally expect in a major shipwreck."

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