A shipwreck discovered in 1996 by a private contractor working for the state of North Carolina has been confirmed to be the Queen Anne's Revenge, the flagship of the notorious 18th-century English pirate Blackbeard, state officials said.

In 1718, Blackbeard ran aground in Queen Anne's Revenge on a sandbar at Beaufort Inlet, Carteret County, N.C. He and his crew abandoned the ship to survive.

Intersal, a private research firm, discovered the wreckage on Nov. 21, 1996. It was located by Intersal's director of operations, Mike Daniel, who used historical research provided by Intersal's president, Phil Masters. The vessel is in shallow water offshore from Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach, N.C.  

There was not one 'aha' moment, said Claire Aubel, public relations coordinator for the North Carolina Maritime Museums. There was a collection of moments and a deduction based on the evidence.

The size of the wreck and the huge number of weapons found in the wreckage provided crucial evidence to conclude that the ship was once sailed by Blackbeard.

Edward Teach, who became infamous as Blackbeard, is thought to have been born in 1680 in Bristol, possibly into a wealthy, respectable family. He is believed to have had thick black beard and fearsome appearance and tied lit fuses under his hat to frighten his enemies. He operated mostly around the West Indies and the eastern coast of the American colonies.

Blackbeard was a shrewd pirate who avoided the use of force, relying instead on his fearsome image to intimidate his targets. Contrary to the modern-day picture of the traditional tyrannical pirate, he commanded his vessels with the permission of their crews and there are no known accounts of his ever having harmed or murdered those he held captive.

He was romanticized after his death and became the inspiration for a number of pirate-themed works of fiction across a range of genres. Blackbeard was killed in a battle with British ships in North Carolina's Pamlico Sound in 1718.

According to National Geographic, major artifacts recovered from the excavation of the wreckage site include apothecary weights stamped with tiny fleurs-de-lis, royal symbols of 18th-century France, as the Queen Anne's Revenge was a former French ship, Le Concorde, captured by Blackbeard in 1717.  A small amount of gold and a bell engraved with the date 1705 were also found.