By Jim Brumm
WILMINGTON, North Carolina (Reuters) - Archeologists raised another cannon on Wednesday from the sunken wreck of pirate Blackbeard's legendary ship off the coast of North Carolina.
The eight-foot (2.4-meter) cannon, which had rested at the bottom of Beaufort Inlet since the ship Queen Anne's Revenge sank in 1718, was covered in a cement-like shell of sand, salt and sea life.
"It's like Christmas," project director Mark Wilde-Ramsing said in a statement.
Blackbeard, whose real name was widely believed to be Edward Teach or Thatch and who had a residence in North Carolina, captured a French slave ship in 1717 and renamed it Queen Anne's Revenge.
Blackbeard eventually received a pardon. But some experts say he grew bored and returned to piracy. He was killed by volunteers from the British Royal Navy in November 1718, five months after the ship thought to be Queen Anne's Revenge sank.
Researchers have spent the fall recovering artifacts from the shipwreck site, located in 1996 by Florida-based Intersal Inc.
The state's Department of Cultural Resources said the expedition had already retrieved a number of artifacts including shackles, concreted bar shot, a crystal wine glass fragment and various items associated with the ship's rigging.
In all, 12 cannons have been lifted and recovered through a cleaning process that can take up to five years.
"Four cannons were all found to be loaded, with cannon shot and wads in place ready to be fired," the project's chief conservator Sarah Watkins-Kenney said.
"Remains of rope wrapped around the muzzle of another cannon also are intriguing," she said. "Materials as fragile as rope rarely survive, so finding this vindicated the cleaning used to carefully excavate the concretion layers, rather than just knock it off to reveal the cannon."
The cannon raised on Wednesday will be transported to the Queen Anne's Revenge Conservation Lab at East Carolina University.
Some 50 percent of the site has been examined and about 280,000 artifacts found. Researchers are aiming to complete work at the site in 2013.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Johnston)