While it used to be a refuge for one of the most notorious and cruel pirates of all time, Blackbeard’s island is now a 5,000-acre wildlife sanctuary that was established to preserve important wildlife and tree species for conservation purposes. The island has a long past, fraught with legends of pirates burying their treasure and later documented accounts of the island having been used as a yellow fever quarantine station by the US Marine Hospital Service. Yellow fever epidemics were frequent in the late 1700s and 1800s. Even though the island was used mainly as a source of live timber for the purpose of building ships, its colorful past and the famous legends associated with Blackbeard still lived on to this day.
Blackbeard’s Island was named after Edward Teach, commonly known as Blackbeard, one of the cruelest pirates in history. Blackbeard was the notorious captain of Queen Anne’s Revenge and sailed the seven seas in the early 1700s – a period known as the Golden Age of Piracy. Although he has not gathered nearly as many spoils from his travels as pirates like Bartholomew Roberts, Blackbeard reportedly stole a significant amount of gold and was said to have used the island for “banking purposes.” Teach remains one of the most iconic figures in history, and remains a source of inspiration for the image of 18th century pirates, as they are viewed today.
According to some accounts Ed Teach’s island supposedly holds a sizable treasure buried there by Blackbeard before his demise at Ocracoke. However, to this day, the treasure eluded travelers and treasure hunters who traveled to the island for the purpose of finding it. No proof remains that the treasure even existed, and nothing has been found on the island to suggest otherwise. The last treasure hunting expedition to the island was in 1880.
The island is situated in Macintosh County, Georgia, and now bears the name Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge. It consists of interconnecting dunes that are covered by oak and palmetto vegetation, and it is only accessible by boat. The main objective of the refuge is to offer a winter habitat and sanctuary to a variety of rare bird species and to help preserve endangered tree and wildlife species such as the bald eagle, loggerhead sea turtle and piping plover. While visitors to Blackbeard’s island are still allowed today, treasure hunting has been strictly banned, so there is little hope that Teach’s treasure could be found there any time soon.