for National Geographic News
Marine archaeologists and engineers are trying to prevent ocean currents from scattering the wreck of a ship off the coast of North Carolina that was probably used by the infamous pirate Blackbeard.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is constructing a berma long, slender mound of sandnear the site of a shipwreck that is presumed to be the Queen Anne's Revenge.
The ship was the seagoing home of Blackbeard and his crew in 1717 and 1718. (See National Geographic Channel's Blackbeard: Terror at Sea, Sunday, March 12 at 8 p.m. ET)
(National Geographic News is a division of the National Geographic Society, which is part owner of the National Geographic Channel.)
Mark Wilde-Ramsing, who is directing the excavation of the site for the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, said the berm will be about 600 feet (about 180 meters) long and about 200 feet (60 meters) wide when it is completed.
The engineers are putting the berm about 420 feet (130 meters) from the wreck, which is about one mile (about one and a half kilometers) offshore.
"It's highly experimental," Wilde-Ramsing said of the berm. "There's no guarantee it won't wash away in the next storm."
Wilde-Ramsing and others involved with excavating the shipwreck hope the berm will block ocean currents that could carry away portions of the ship's remains and expose fragile timbers to deterioration. The wreck lies in about 22 feet (7 meters) of water.
"The site continues getting more and more exposed," Wilde-Ramsing said. "It really became obvious a couple of years ago."
Recent hurricanes have compounded the problem, posing a threat to the shipwreck site, the archaeologist says.
A storm passing North Carolina from hundreds of miles offshore can send powerful currents surging toward the wreck.
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