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Nonprofit supporting Blackbeard’s ship sinks amid litigation

It didn’t take long for litigation to send the Friends of the Queen Anne’s Revenge down to Davy Jones’ Locker.

The nonprofit organization was formed in 2008 to raise money to preserve and recover artifacts from the one-time flagship of notorious pirate Edward “Blackbeard” Thatch, which sank off the coast of North Carolina nearly 300 years ago. But after being broadsided by litigation in December, the Friends of the Queen Anne’s Revenge was forced to run up the white flag.

The organization notified the North Carolina Secretary of State in mid-March of its intent to begin the dissolution process.

The demise of the Friends of the Queen Anne’s Revenge was driven by a lawsuit filed by documentarian Frederick Allen and Nautilus Productions. The plaintiffs claim that the State of North Carolina used underwater footage of the shipwrecked Queen Anne’s Revenge in violation of copyrights owned by Allen and Nautilus. The lawsuit claims the state sought to get out of having to pay for the footage by passing a law to make all footage of the shipwreck a public record.

As one of the defendants in the lawsuit, the Friends of the Queen Anne’s Revenge found it difficult to raise funds.

“That made it pretty much impossible for us to carry out the primary goal of the organization, which is the excavation and conservation of the Queen Anne’s Revenge,” said Tom Kies, executive director of the Morehead City Revitalization Association, who is acting as spokesman for the Friends of the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

He adds that having to dissolve “broke our hearts” because the organization hoped to have all of the ship’s artifacts brought landside by 2018, the 300th anniversary of the ship’s sinking.

Susan Olive of Olive & Olive in Durham, who is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, declined to comment on the case.

The Friends of the Queen Anne’s Revenge is represented by J. Scott Lewis of Hedrick, Gardner, Kincheloe & Garofalo in Wilmington. Lewis could not be reached for comment.

In its heyday, the Queen Anne’s Revenge was a 200-ton frigate, which operated for a time as a French slave ship. After Blackbeard took control of the ship, he equipped her with more than 40 guns making the ship a fearsome sight on the high seas. Blackbeard captained the Queen Anne’s Revenge for about a year and captured numerous prizes before she ran aground in 1718. The ship sank off Beaufort Inlet near present-day Carteret County. The wreckage was rediscovered in 1996.

Now that the nonprofit supporting its preservation has been set adrift it’s unclear what comes next for the shipwreck. The Department of Cultural and Natural Resources has no planned dives on the wreckage at this time.

But it’s a safe bet there’s been talk of making those who caused the dissolution have to walk the plank. You know, the kind of jokes Blackbeard himself might have liked.

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