The state’s private fundraising drive to finish the recovery of artifacts from Blackbeard’s sunken flagship hit its goal of $450,000 more than two months early Friday, thanks to a surprise donation after Gov. Bev Perdue and N.C. Department of Cultural Resources Secretary Linda Carlisle held a news conference on the project.
The two had traveled to Beaufort for the event at the N.C. Maritime Museum, where they talked about the importance of the project for tourism and updated the progress on the donations, which had reached $417,500. That included a $225,000 matching gift from Grady-White Boats of Greenville, but another $32,500 was necessary to trigger the full match.
In the audience were Eric and Rita Bigham of Chapel Hill, who are longtime supporters of the maritime museum. After hearing how much was needed to finish the drive, they approached one of the Blackbeard team members, said Jennifer Woodward, an assistant secretary with the cultural resources department.
“They basically just said they wanted to contribute and asked who they needed to talk to,” Woodward said. “They said they had been looking for a good cause and, after listening during the event, decided that this one just spoke to them.”
Perdue and Carlisle were still in the building and sought out the Bighams to thank them.
Carlisle started the fundraising drive earlier this year because there wasn’t money in the state budget for the work. The project has operated for years on a shoestring. It has been able to survive because of shared equipment from other branches of state government, such as expertise, labor and facilities from East Carolina University’s maritime studies program.
“These financial contributions are crucial if we are to meet our goal of complete underwater archaeological excavation by 2014,” said Carlisle in a news release Friday. “More than 34,000 additional artifacts remain at risk under the sea, including 12 cannons, 2 anchors, and 4,000 concretions. Time is critical.”