Archaeologists plan to raise one of Blackbeard's anchors one last time today, yanking one huge pirate artifact from the sea floor in hopes of getting at some of the tiniest.
By chance, the operation to lift the largest artifact yet recovered from the wreck of the notorious pirate's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, comes just in time to draw attention to a new exhibit about the ship scheduled to open in two weeks at the nearby state maritime museum in Beaufort.
And in kind of springtime buccaneer trifecta, Blackbeard and his ship appear in the latest installment of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie franchise, which just opened.
The pirate, or at least the cartoonish, pop image of him, is widely known. His ship, not so much. Now, though, with millions seeing Johnny Depp's fictional character, Capt. Jack Sparrow, cavort aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge, the ship is suddenly getting more exposure than ever.
The nearly 3,000-pound anchor was among four carried aboard the ship. To safely position it for lifting today, divers used air bags to float it off the bottom Wednesday and shifted it just off the wreck site, which lies off Atlantic Beach.
The anchor was atop a pile of debris, which appears to be the remnants of the middle part of the ship, including its cargo hold, said Mark Wilde-Ramsing, a deputy state archaeologist and director of the Queen Anne's Revenge project.
Next week, Wilde-Ramsing said, researchers hope to dig a small test hole into the side of the pile where the anchor was removed to get a sense of what else might be hidden there. They're particularly keen to find organic material such as seeds and spores that could help detail the pirates' stops in exotic ports.
Seemingly mundane objects like seeds, spoons and tools can be more valuable than gems and doubloons to archaeologists, because they can open new windows into pirate life, which is the whole point of the 14-year-old recovery effort and the museum exhibit.
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