Sometimes, the effort it takes to find sunken treasure is worth it, as was the case of the Whydah ship. This ship, to this day, is still the only one in existence to have its pirate history documented and confirmed. Its seafaring history is not a happy one nor did it gain a reputation for doing anything good, but much of its allure comes from the man who sailed it: Black Sam Bellamy. The captain had a notorious reputation and seemingly stopped at nothing to increase the treasure under his belt (or, in this case, under his ship deck). His money - in the form of rare and valuable coins - was made by the slave trade, as he sold slaves all around the Caribbean. Many of them found a type of freedom in joining his ship crew which is how Black Sam ended up with such a vast army of people on the Whydah, however, they weren't truly free. Subject to his will, which included the robbing of 54 other ships, he was both revered and feared.


His reign began between the 17th and 18th centuries and continued until the Whydah sank in 1717, dragging down with it an estimated 180 pirates, and tens of thousands of coins that Black Sam had stashed. What began as a slaving ship soon turned into a true pirate ship when Black Sam captured it, however, being a pirate during the 18th century was nothing like it's depicted in Hollywood. Pirates were brutal, harsh, selfish men, caring about one thing and one thing only: Treasure.

The Search For The Whydah

The ship itself was discovered by a man named Barry Clifford, who discovered the wreck back in 2014. The process of finding her, however, was not an easy one. The journey to find the Whydah actually began in 1982 after Clifford had listened to stories of the pirate ship and its captain as a kid. With determination, he studied various maps that would have given an indication as to where the ship actually sunk - but it was not nearly as easy as simply reading a map today. With ocean currents and general deterioration, it's incredible that the ship was even found, let alone identified. After having sunk in 1717, any number of things could have happened to cause the ship to be nothing more than a rotting pile of wood on the ocean floor.

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When it was finally discovered off the coast of Cape Cod, Clifford and his team made a striking discovery that told him, and the rest of the world, that the Whydah existed - and it was about to be unearthed. Dive teams had dug 30 feet into the seabed before finding a coin that was estimated to be from 1684, which told them they were headed in the right direction, literally. This coin had been frozen to a cannonball which was another good sign for the team, as a cannonball was synonymous with ships during that time period. Not long after, a ship bell was found that read, 'The Whydah 1716.' It was then that the team knew they had struck gold... literally.

The Ship And Its Contents

Black Sam was such a vicious pirate that the Whydah was actually the 50th ship he had stolen. It was built by the Royal African Company and along with Black Sam's stolen loot, was also filled with money transactions from the slave trade that had been ongoing at the time, a dark and tragic time during the 17th-century timeline. This is how it was determined that much of Black Sam's crew were slaves before choosing freedom with Black Sam, and while 180 men went down with the ship in 1717, eight survived and went onto trial in Massachusetts.

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After the discovery of such a tremendous era in history, the State of Massachusetts attempted to force Clifford into selling his findings because, according to the State, a third of it was owned by them. However, Clifford challenged this in the Supreme Court before being granted ownership of the entire thing - the ship and its contents. Back in 2014, Clifford hoped to open a museum to showcase the state's history - and now, visitors can experience it for themselves at the Whydah Pirate Museum in Yarmouth, Massachusetts. According to its website, the Whydah Pirate Museum is home to the largest collection of pirate artifacts from any one ship, and much of it is on display for visitors as they go through each informative exhibit. The museum is open daily except for Mondays and provides insight and education about what life was like as a pirate, and on a pirate ship.

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