(CNN) -- When the 13th cannon raised from Blackbeard's flagship, Queen Anne's Revenge, came to the surface this morning, researchers at the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources had one question: Was it loaded?
The 8-foot cannon is one of 25 found since the vessel's discovery in 1997, a treasure trove of 280,000 artifacts pulled to surface over 14 years. Shackles, ship riggings, crystal wine glasses' remains, and cannon shot are among the booty. Four cannons have so far been found "with cannon shot and wads in place ready to be fired," said Sarah Watkins-Kenney, Queen Ann's Revenge chief conservator.
Christened "Baby Ruth," the newest cannon can only reveal its secrets after researchers painstakingly remove the "concretion" from the 1-ton weapon. Concretion is a cement-like shell of sand, salt and sea life that can take archaeologists up to five years to remove.
The Queen Anne's Revenge's remains are scuttled two miles off the North Carolina coast near Atlantic Beach in 25 feet of water, where the pirate Blackbeard left the vessel in June 1718. Historians believe Blackbeard and his fleet of 300 to 400 pirates wanted to rid themselves of the vessel. "It's believed he ran this aground intentionally as a part of corporate downsizing," said Fay Mitchell with North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.
Researchers continue to work the site.
"Our goal is to have research on the site completed by 2013, assuming the funding holds out," Mitchell said.