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All of Queen Anne’s Revenge to be salvaged

The Queen Anne’s Revenge, the flagship of the notorious English pirate Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, has been lying on the ocean floor off the coast of Beaufort Inlet in the Inner Banks of North Carolina since it ran aground in May 1718. It was discovered in 1996 by Intersal Inc., a private research firm that has searched for several shipwrecks under the oversight of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources (NCDCR). The wreck and all artifacts belong to the state and in 1997 NCDCR archaeologists began a long-term project of exploring, mapping and documenting the debris field.

Starting in 2006, the NCDCR’s Underwater Archaeology Branch added a program of artifact recovery to the ongoing study of the wreck site. Fifteen years after the initial discovery, the program was able to confirm that the wreck was indeed that of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, a certainty they had scrupulously avoided expressing because none of the artifacts offered a smoking gun, so to speak, like the name of the ship. The large size of the ship, the great number of loaded cannons of different makes found, French artifacts and depth markings on the stern (it was a French slaver before being captured by pirate Captain Benjamin Hornigold in 1817 who gave it to one of his crewmen, Edward Teach, to captain), a date of 1705 on a ship’s bell: all the evidence added up to this being the QAR.

More than 280,000 pieces have been brought to the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort for conservation and display, but that’s just a third of the estimated total. Now the Underwater Archaeology Branch has announced that they plan to recover the entire wreck, from dishes to weapons to the ship’s planks, by 2014.

“The project calls for the recovery of all the materials. Everything. All the weapons, all the bits of the ship, all the personal items. Everything. If it’s down there, it’s coming up,” project leader Billy Ray Morris told FoxNews.com on Wednesday.

Morris and a group of 14 marine archaeologists, technicians and restoration experts from the Underwater Archaeology Branch of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources believe the Queen Anne’s Revenge itself is a treasure trove, a unique repository of history from centuries ago. They plan to salvage the entire remains of the pirate ship by 2014. Cannon by cannon, plank by plank.

This will be a uniquely rich source of information about life on an 18th century pirate ship. There aren’t any shiny chests of treasure to hog the spotlight (Blackbeard and his crew had time to unload high value items after the ship ran aground which seems to have been a deliberate choice). It’s a treasure trove of social history with the additional cachet of association with and use by one of the famous pirates ever.

Once the wreck is salvaged, years, probably decades of conservation work will follow. Many of the artifacts can’t even be immediately identified because of concretions. Over the centuries spent in the ocean, artifacts become encrusted with sand, marine critters and other artifacts locking them together like concrete. It takes a lot of work to reveal the objects trapped in concretions. Here’s a cool example of one that has been cleaned enough to identify the different parts:

Check out the Queen Anne’s Revenge Project website for more information about the wreck, including a killer interactive site map, pictures (small ones, tragically) of the artifacts and a regularly updated blog.


Queen Elizabeth II and US Presidents

As the Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee (60 years!), I thought it was fitting to find a picture of her with a US President or two.  The Queen has met 12 US Presidents! This is President Truman with the then Princess Elizabeth in 1951.You can hear a newscast about it here.

African Queen restored and bearing a Bogart again

The restored African QueenLast December, Captain Lance and Suzanne Holmquist announced that they would restore the African Queen and put her back to work doing inland water tours. After three and a half months of work and almost $70,000, the 30-foot riverboat used in the iconic 1951 John Huston movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn is officially back in business.

The steamship, built in England in 1912 then used by the British East Africa Railway Company to carry cargo and passengers in the Belgian Congo and Uganda, had been deteriorating in dry dock for ten years. Her previous owner, Jim Hendricks Sr., had rescued from her a land bound horse farm in Ocala, Florida in 1982, then used her for tours and took her around the world twice for special events. Once Jim Sr. died in 2002, the boat passed to his son Jim who unfortunately could not afford to maintain her as his father had.

Captain Lance and Suzanne Holmquist on the QueenThe Holmquists could see the Queen sitting forlorn on her dock as they operated their charter boat business. Captain Lance, who has a passion for restoring boats, noticed that even decrepit in dry dock the African Queen was still a hugely popular stop for tourists. Hundreds of people would come every day to take her picture. So they struck a deal with Mr. Hendricks: they’d restore the boat as historically accurately as possible, and in return Jim would lease them the Queen to use for charter tours.

The restoration was challenging, but not as hard as some of the other restorations Captain Holmquist has done. The African Queen was still structurally sturdy. First they had to fix the hull. Made from 10-gauge British steel, most of it had toughed out the tough times. Only 20% of the steel panels were corroded enough to need replacing, but that 20% took three weeks of welding to fix. Watch this YouTube video to see the welders, and their commanding officer/Chihuahua, Stewart “The Killer” Kipp, in action.

Also salvageable was much of the original black African mahogany used for flooring and siding. The Holmquists just had to oil and condition it. For historical authenticity and ambiance, they decided to spend $26,000 to install a new steam boiler even though during the shooting of the film the boat wasn’t actually powered by steam; they just made it look like it was. Last up was a new paint job, which lasted just a few hours before Captain Holmquist took a rag and some brown paint and messed it up so it would look like it looked chugging through the jungle with Bogie and Hepburn.

“We wanted it to look beat up, like it appeared [in the Congo] in World War I,” said Suzanne Holmquist. “It’s starting to get its sheen back, and its authentic look.”

The African Queen will be officially relaunched Thursday. The Key Largo Chamber of Commerce is throwing her a party and fundraiser dockside at the Holiday Inn Key Largo. Stephen Bogart, son of Humphrey and Lauren Bacall, will be there. The first ride on the Queen with Stephen Bogart will be auctioned off at the event, as will the original steel pieces from the hull that were replaced. The party is open to the public; the suggested donation is $15.

Starting at the end of the month, the African Queen will be taking passengers on two-hour canal cruises several times a day, and for six-passenger dinner cruises around Key Largo on select evenings. She will also be available for private charters. See her back on the water and hear her lovely bell in this video.


Presidents of the US and Queen Elizabeth

President Truman greeting Princess Elizabeth

So I got a forward a couple of weeks ago that showed Queen Elizabeth with US Presidents going back to Truman. This intrigued me enough to investiage as I don’t trust forwards! Anyway, I found this slide show of the Queen with the various Presidents! The Queen has reigned through 11 presidents, of which she has met 10! She met Truman before she was crowned and also Herbert Hoover after his presidency.

Britain’s Queen reaches landmark

On Friday 13th 2011, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II had ruled for fifty nine years and one hundred and ten days. This total – the Telegraph translates it to 21,645 days …

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The Queen’s Scones

The picture above is President Eisenhower with Queen Elizabeth II at the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959.

If you want some scones to go eat as you watch the Royal Wedding (and I admit it…I watched it on the Yahoo…I did NOT stay up until 3 AM), check out this recipe that Queen Elizabeth sent to President Eisenhower!

Queen Eadgyth laid to rest. Again.

Queen Edith's sarcophagusThe remains of Queen Eadgyth, granddaughter of Alfred the Great and wife of Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, were reburied in an ecumenical ceremony in Magdeburg Cathedral this Friday. Her bones were found in a lead coffin inside a stone sarcophagus by archaeologists doing some work on the cathedral in 2008. Even though there was a cenotaph dedicated to her in the church, the find was unexpected because her remains were known to have been moved several times.

The burial wasn’t original. She died in 946 A.D, and an inscription on the lead coffin noted her name and the reburial date (1510), but of course that wasn’t sufficient to prove that the bones belonged to the queen herself. It wasn’t until this year that isotope analysis on her teeth confirmed that the remains did indeed belong to Queen Eadgyth.

Now that the science has been done, the good Queen has been put to her final rest. Again. Hundreds gathered in the 800-year-old Magdeburg Cathedral to pay their respects. First there was an ecumenical 2-hour funerary service with both Lutheran and Catholic clerics presiding, then a closed coffin viewing of Queen Eadgyth’s remains. After that, the coffin was placed inside the stone sarcophagus and reburied under the floor of the cathedral.

The original lead coffin was too corroded and broken to reuse, so the Arts Foundation of Saxony-Anhalt held a competition to chose a new long-lasting coffin design. The winner was Leipzig sculptor Kornelia Thümmel. She created a polygonal container made of titanium that looks like a crystal. On one side of the coffin in a cross, on the other the following inscription: “This sarcophagus contains the mortal remains of Queen Edith, wife of Otto the Great, once again buried Anno Domini 1510, re-discovered by archaeological excavations in 2008 and now again buried in 2010.”

Queen Edith's new titanium coffin Incription on titanium coffin

The coffin is so small because there are actually not that many bones left, only 40 out of the usual 200, and some fragments of her skull.

Otto had given the city of Magdeburg to Eadgyth as a wedding present. She was widely beloved and known for her charitable works and kindness. She was never canonized, but she was revered locally as a saint for centuries, hence the missing bones. Whenever she got moved, people helped themselves to pieces of her as relics.


Columbus’ Letter to the King and Queen of Spain by Christopher Columbus

Most High and Mighty Sovereigns,

In obedience to your Highnesses’ commands, and with submission to superior judgment, I will say whatever occurs to me in reference to the colonization and commerce of the Island of Espanola, and of the other islands, both those already discovered and those that may be discovered hereafter.

In the first place, as regards the Island of Espanola: Inasmuch as the number of colonists who desire to go thither amounts to two thousand, owing to the land being safer and better for farming and trading, and because it will serve as a place to which they can return and from which they can carry on trade with the neighboring islands:

1. That in the said island there shall be founded three or four towns, situated in the most convenient places, and that the settlers who are there be assigned to the aforesaid places and towns.

2. That for the better and more speedy colonization of the said island, no one shall have liberty to collect gold in it except those who have taken out colonists’ papers, and have built houses for their abode, in the town in which they are, that they may live united and in greater safety.

3. That each town shall have its alcalde…and its notary public, as is the use and custom in Castile.

4. That there shall he a church, and parish priests or friars to administer the sacraments, to perform divine worship, and for the conversion of the Indians.

5. That none of the colonists shall go to seek gold without a license from the governor or alcalde of the town where he lives; and that he must first take oath to return to the place whence he sets out, for the purpose of registering faithfully all the gold he may have found, and to return once a month, or once a week, as the time may have been set for him, to render account and show the quantity of said gold; and that this shall be written down by the notary before the aIcalde, or, if it seems better, that a friar or priest, deputed for the purpose, shall be also present

6. That all the gold thus brought in shall be smelted immediately, and stamped with some mark that shall distinguish each town; and that the portion which belongs to your Highnesses shall be weighed, and given and consigned to each alcalde in his own town, and registered by the above-mentioned priest or friar, so that it shall not pass through the hands of only one person, and there shall he no opportunity to conceal the truth.

7. That all gold that may be found without the mark of one of the said towns in the possession of any one who has once registered in accordance with the above order shall be taken as forfeited, and that the accuser shall have one portion of it and your Highnesses the other.

8. That one per centum of all the gold that may be found shall be set aside for building churches and adorning the same, and for the support of the priests or friars belonging to them; and, if it should be thought proper to pay any thing to the alcaldes or notaries for their services, or for ensuring the faithful perforce of their duties, that this amount shall be sent to the governor or treasurer who may be appointed there by your Highnesses.

9. As regards the division of the gold, and the share that ought to be reserved for your Highnesses, this, in my opinion, must be left to the aforesaid governor and treasurer, because it will have to be greater or less according to the quantity of gold that may be found. Or, should it seem preferable, your Highnesses might, for the space of one year, take one half, and the collector the other, and a better arrangement for the division be made afterward.

10. That if the said alcaldes or notaries shall commit or be privy to any fraud, punishment shall be provided, and the same for the colonists who shall not have declared all the gold they have.

11. That in the said island there shall be a treasurer, with a clerk to assist him, who shall receive all the gold belonging to your Highnesses, and the alcaldes and notaries of the towns shall each keep a record of what they deliver to the said treasurer.

12. As, in the eagerness to get gold, every one will wish, naturally, to engage in its search in preference to any other employment, it seems to me that the privilege of going to look for gold ought to be withheld during some portion of each year, that there may be opportunity to have the other business necessary for the island performed.

13. In regard to the discovery of new countries, I think permission should be granted to all that wish to go, and more liberality used in the matter of the fifth, making the tax easier, in some fair way, in order that many may be disposed to go on voyages.

I will now give my opinion about ships going to the said Island of Espanola, and the order that should be maintained; and that is, that the said ships should only be allowed to discharge in one or two ports designated for the purpose, and should register there whatever cargo they bring or unload; and when the time for their departure comes, that they should sail from these same ports, and register all the cargo they take in, that nothing may be concealed.

In reference to the transportation of gold from the island to Castile, that all of it should be taken on board the ship, both that belonging to your Highnesses and the property of every one else; that it should all be placed in one chest with two locks, with their keys, and that the master of the vessel keep one key and some person selected by the governor and treasurer the other; that there should come with the gold, for a testimony, a list of all that has been put into the said chest, properly marked, so that each owner may receive his own; and that, for the faithful performance of this duty, if any gold whatsoever is found outside of the said chest in any way, be it little or much, it shall be forfeited to your Highnesses.

That all the ships that come from the said island shall be obliged to make their proper discharge in the port of Cadiz, and that no person shall disembark or other person be permitted to go on board until the ship has been visited by the person or persons deputed for that purpose, in the said city, by your Highnesses, to whom the master shall show all that he carries, and exhibit the manifest of all the cargo, it may be seen and examined if the said ship brings any thing hidden and not known at the time of lading.

That the chest in which the said gold has been carried shall be opened in the presence of the magistrates of the said city of Cadiz, and of the person deputed for that purpose by your Highnesses, and his own property be given to each owner.

I beg your Highnesses to hold me in your protection; and I remain, praying our Lord God for your Highnesses’ lives and the increase of much greater States.

Queen Elizabeth 1