Blackbeard's revenge

Published May 7, 2015

Editorial by Greenville Daily Reflector, May 6, 2015.

In the 1968 film “Blackbeard’s Ghost,” the notorious pirate revisits North Carolina in a comedy plot. If the ghost of Edward Teach could be conjured today, he surely would find amusement in the legal battle over the remains of his ship.

The shipwreck-hunting company that located Blackbeard’s flagship off the North Carolina coast nearly 20 years ago is fighting the state over profits from the historical treasure. When the Florida-based company, Intersal Inc., found the Queen Anne’s Revenge at the bottom of Beaufort Inlet, there was not much loot to be hauled up. The ship’s cannons, anchor, other artifacts and the ship itself are the primary treasure.

Intersal gained a contract for rights to photos and videos of the wreck and of its recovery, study and preservation of its historic artifacts. The company is accusing North Carolina of “pirating” some of those items under contract by improperly posting photos and videos on websites and social media sites.

“The state has created a tourist industry around Blackbeard and his ship since the vessel’s discovery in 1996,” The AP reported. “That includes exhibits at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, which attracts about 300,000 visitors a year, according to the Queen Anne’s Revenge website.”

Intersal claims the state is violating the company’s contract by displaying media of artifacts from the ship on websites other than its own without a time code stamp or watermark. The company is seeking $7 million for the alleged misuse and $7 million in lost revenue from the state Department of Cultural Resources.

If Blackbeard’s ghost is somehow floating around observing this legal battle, he must be thrilled to know that his ship still has the power to command such monetary treasure, even after nearly 300 years on the ocean floor.

The shipwreck’s historical treasure is about more than money. The Queen Anne’s Revenge Conservation Laboratory at East Carolina University, a joint venture with the state, works to preserve and recover artifacts gathered from the shipwreck. That painstaking work brings attention to the university and helps to demonstrate the rewards of careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The lab’s annual open house, held last month, attracts hundreds of visitors.

In the 1968 Disney film, Blackbeard’s ghost is conjured up by a spell found in a book that belonged to one of the dead pirate’s wives, reputed to have been a witch. The spell cursed Blackbeard to an existence in limbo until he could perform a good deed.

Perhaps that book of spells is still around. Who better than Blackbeard himself to perform the good deed of mediating this modern disagreement?