“Shiver me timbers!”
“Dead men tell no tales!”
“Avast, ye scurvy dogs!”
Little doubt that upon reading these quotes an image reminiscent of pirates popped into your mind. But why is that? How is it that a motley group of brigands and ne’er do wells from a short, roughly 30-year span of history managed to capture the public’s attention to such a degree that they continue to exist as cultural icons some 300 years after they met their respective ends in battle or at the end of a hangman’s noose?
“Blackbeard,” “Captain Kidd,” “Bartholomew Roberts,” “Stede Bonnet,” “Calico Jack,” “Edward Low,” “‘Black Sam’ Bellamy,” “William Fly,” “Anne Bonny,” and “Charles Vane” are the most infamous and well known of the two-dozen or so pirate captains whose nautical depredations made such a mark on history during the 1699-1726 “Golden Age of Piracy.” And yet none of them had a career as a pirate that spanned longer than five years. Even Blackbeard, perhaps the most notorious pirate ever, was only active for three years.
Three years of hell raising and his name will undoubtedly continue to remain famous long after the world has forgotten about the Kardashians. Few historical figures have etched their names so successfully in history’s ledger books through such a short career path. Talk about “Getting Nauti.”
Given the grandiose position of “pirates” in the realm of all things nautical, we pay homage to them with our skull ’n bones “Pirate Dive Flag”, which juxtaposes the “diver down” SCUBA flag with pirate attitude, as well as our “Jolly Roger” line of shirts, hoodies, and accessories. But what, other than potential attitude, you might ask, does SCUBA diving have to do with pirates?
Well, aside from the fact that we believe the design to be totally badass, from the perspective of a SCUBA diver we believe making a dive on a pirate ship would be about the coolest wreck diving possible.
And lo and behold it is even possible to wreck dive Blackbeard’s flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, which was found in North Carolina’s Beaufort Inlet by underwater archeologists in 1996, about one mile offshore in 28 feet of water. Talk about way cool! Other than The Whydah Galley, flagship of “Black Sam” Bellamy that was found off the coast of Cape Cod in 1984, Queen Anne’s Revenge is the only other known pirate shipwreck that’s been discovered.
A cast-iron cannon from Blackbeard's ship, Queen Anne's Revenge
The 100-foot, 40-gun Queen Anne’s Revenge was probably the most powerful pirate ship of the Golden Age of Piracy. Built as a frigate by the British in 1710, she was captured by the French in 1711 and converted to a cargo ship. She was then captured in 1717 by by Captain “Black Sam” Bellamy, who turned it over to Edward Teach (Blackbeard) and made him a captain. Blackbeard re-gunned the ship, and with his sloop, Adventure, successfully captured and/or looted numerous ships of various nationalities over the next 10 months. The pirates also blockaded Charleston, South Carolina and threatened to burn the town down unless they were given drugs to control a bout of syphilis that was rampant among the crew.
After the successful blockade and capture of a few more ships, Queen Anne’s Revenge ran aground and sank while crossing Beaufort Inlet. While there was no loss of life, the grounding meant the dispersal of Blackbeard’s crew, as not all could fit on the much smaller Adventure. Five months later Blackbeard probably had time to regret the loss of that formidable ship, when he and his 25 remaining crew were attacked by two British Sloops at Ocracoke Inlet. An attack that rendered Blackbeard headless and his remaining men dead or captured.
While Queen’s Anne Revenge remains an active underwater archeological site, about 300 recreational divers are allowed to visit the site every year. The dive program is hosted by the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, which is also helping curate the numerous items—cannon, shot, anchors, small arms, personal possessions (but no treasure)—retrieved from the wreck.
If you want to learn more about Blackbeard, we recommend the 2011 book, “The Last Days of Blackbeard the Pirate,” by Kevin P. Duffus, who has conducted the best historical research we have ever seen on any pirate.
If you want to get nauti like Blackbeard, we suggest you just stick with drinking some rum and saying “arrr” and other pirate-like expressions. Oh, and consider picking up a Getting Nauti “Pirate Dive Flag” or “Jolly Roger” shirt or hoodie.