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Shipwreck-hunting company says contract breached involving Blackbeard's ship

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RALEIGH, North Carolina — The shipwreck-hunting company that found Blackbeard's flagship that sank off the North Carolina coast nearly 300 years ago sued the state Monday for more than $8 million, saying officials violated a contract involving photos and videos of the wreck and recovery.

Florida-based Intersal Inc. said in the lawsuit in state court in Raleigh that the amount could increase as the company discovers further violations of the contract involving the ship, Queen Anne's Revenge. The lawsuit also seeks a temporary order preventing the state from violating the contract and from recovering more objects from the ship.

"We really didn't want to do this. But they continue to breach the agreement; that has not ended," John Masters, chairman of Intersal's board, said in a phone interview Monday. "And they continue to not behave in good faith. And this is costing us a huge amount of money. ... We have no choice but to protect our rights. "

Among the violations are the state display of more than 2,000 images and more than 200 minutes of video on websites other than the state Department of Cultural Resources website, the lawsuit says. These images and video have no watermark, time code site or website links as the contract requires, the lawsuit says.

No real loot was discovered on Queen Anne's Revenge when Intersal found it almost 20 years ago; instead the company eventually reached a 15-year contract in 1998 for rights to photos and videos of the wreck and of the recovery, study and preservation of its historic artifacts.

The state, meanwhile, has created a tourist industry, including museum exhibits, around Blackbeard and his ship since the vessel's discovery in 1996.

The two sides went to mediation in 2013 before signing another deal. And a petition filed by Intersal earlier this year in the state Office of Administrative Hearings was dismissed for jurisdictional reasons, so the company headed to court.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Cultural Resources said in an email that DCR denies any breach of contract.

Masters said his father searched for Blackbeard's flagship for 20 years before finding it.

Queen Anne's Revenge was a French slave ship called La Concorde when Blackbeard captured the vessel in the fall of 1717 in the Caribbean. Blackbeard renamed the vessel and made it his flagship, which he held onto for only a few months.

Blackbeard, an Englishman whose real name may have been Edward Teach or Thatch, was sailing north from Charleston, South Carolina, when the ship went aground in May 1718 in what's now called Beaufort Inlet. The pirates likely had time to haul away most of the valuables, nautical archaeologists have said. Five months later, members of the Royal Navy of Virginia killed Blackbeard at Ocracoke Inlet.

The 1998 agreement also includes another shipwreck, the El Salvador, which sank in a 1750 hurricane. Treasure is thought to remain with that wreck, which likely is spread across the ocean floor, Masters has said.

The lawsuit says the state has obstructed and delayed Intersal's efforts to renew the permit for that search.

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Online:

http://www.qaronline.org/

http://ncmaritimemuseums.com/beaufort/

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