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Blackbeard's shipwreck reveals Swedish booty

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A replica of Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge in Hawaii. File: Coconut Wireless/Flikr
12:10 CET+01:00
Archaeologists pulled a gargantuan and probably Swedish cannon from the 18th century wreckage of Blackbeard's ship this week. The Local asks the experts why the legendary pirate was cannons ablaze and bang on trend with Swedish artillery.

Nearly three centuries ago the notorious pirate Blackbeard sank his ship, Queen Anne's Revenge, off the coast of North Carolina. After running aground in shallow waters, he was able to save himself, but not his ship, which carried his guns and treasures to the bottom of the sea in 1718.

The shipwreck was discovered in 1996, and since then a team of archaeologists in North Carolina has been searching the wreckage. They recovered tens of thousands of smaller artifacts, including cannons, anchors, gold dust, animal bones, and medical instruments. On Monday, a cannon weighing 1,360 kilogrammes was raised from the depths - and the team suspects it's Swedish.

"The only other recovered gun this size was made in Sweden," project director Bill Ray Morris said in a statement.  

The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources has recovered 20 cannons from the ship, and four of them appear to be of Swedish origin. 

"The English certainly used Swedish guns as did the Dutch, Danes, Spanish and French. It would not have been uncommon to find Swedish manufactured guns on any ship during the first quarter of the 18th century," diver and cannon expert Nathan Henry told The Local. "Sweden was the largest producer of cast iron artillery in the world between 1640 and 1750. A majority of the production was exported."

The other of Blackbeard's large cannons, which was confirmed to be Swedish, was cast in 1713 and came from the Ehrendal factory in Gnesta, central Sweden, and was loaded with an English two-pounder shot as well as a bundle of three iron spikes.

"They barely fit in the barrel," Henry told The Local. "A pretty nasty payload to be sure."

Other cannons pulled up from the shipwreck had no foundry markings, making it difficult to confirm the factory where they were made, but "had the unmistakable shape and unique ring pattern of a cannon produced in the Finspång foundry (Finspång bruk) in the province of Östergötland, which was Sweden's largest cannon foundry for about 300 years. 

The cannons are not the only extravagant archaeological find from that period of Scandinavian history. Two Danish warships were discovered in Stockholm in May, and one of Sweden's biggest tourist attractions is the decadent 17th century Vasa ship, which sank from its own weight before ever making it out of the harbour. The Vasa also featured massive Swedish cannons, but the bronze guns were intended as a flashy show of wealth rather than for warfare. 

Historians believe Captain Blackbeard's real name was Edward Teach. His ship Queen Anne’s Revenge was originally a French slave ship, which he captured and equipped with some 40 cannons. 

Story continues below…

Blackbeard intentionally grounded the ship in 1718, marooning his crew and sinking his Swedish guns before escaping alone... only to be killed in battle six months later.

Solveig Rundquist

Follow Solveig on Twitter

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