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World renown treasure hunter on the cusp of 300 year old treasure loot of pirate, Black Sam Bellamy

Ian Harvey

It goes without saying that everyone loves a good treasure hunt – pirates, maps, and treasure stories have given rise to many a tale of untold wealth, adventure, and danger.

None of these is more astounding than the tale of Captain Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy and Whydah Gally. Whydah Gally pronounced “wi-duh”, sank off the coast of Wellfleet, Massachusetts in 1717.

Model of the Whydah Galley Photo Credit
Model of the Whydah Galley Photo Credit

At the time of her death, she was bursting at the seams, laden with treasure. Among the booty was believed to be over 400,000 silver and gold coins. The disaster, which killed nearly all 150 swash-buckling pirates, took the booty along with it. Only a handful survived the disaster to tell the tale. Sadly, these very survivors faced the penalty of execution for being pirates – a case of ‘out of the frying-pan and into the fire’ – but first, the survivors had a story to tell. This story, Explorer Barry Clifford uses to vindicate his claims. Clifford is the man credited with the ship’s rediscovery and owns the sole rights to her plunder.


Barry Clifford Photo Credit
Barry Clifford Photo Credit


The wreckage, which is located off the coast of Cape Cod, is the first and only authenticated pirate wreckage of our age.

Clifford has claimed to have located the most important part – the treasure trove. This claim is not without its detractors, who are quick to point out that the undersea treasure hunter has got it wrong before. It makes for good reading, but archaeologists and experts want proof before considering anything, according to Paul Johnston, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

To Clifford’s defense, a treasure hunt is much easier with a map and an X that marks the spot. However, Mr. Clifford has had to poke around in murky waters off the coast of Cape Cod, and now he claims that his team has located a metal object which, most likely, is the treasure. Since he holds special rights over the wreckage, Clifford and his team return every year.

The story of Whydah Gally may have had modest beginnings out of London in 1715. Commissioned by the English under the command of Lawrence Prince, the ship was designed to be a cargo, slave, and passenger ship. Upon return from her maiden voyage, she was captured and re-purposed into a pirate flagship for none other than Black Sam himself.


More details Gold from the pirate ship Whydah. "The riches, with the guns, would be buried in the sand." Photo Credit
Gold from the pirate ship, Whydah. “The riches, with the guns, would be buried in the sand.” Photo Credit

She was carrying ill-gotten plunder from over 50 ships when she sank like a stone. The survivors were swiftly hung but not without first telling a judge of the treasure that was on board. This too is the subject of much debate and speculation by experts in the field – one of Clifford’s main detractors says that the survivors may have embellished the truth.

In true adventurer style, Clifford is not swayed by public opinion about his work. He and his team hope to return to the site again to begin working on locating the metal objects. He has said that the recovery may not come to fruition in his lifetime, as archaeology is a process that takes time.

Clifford faces stern criticism for other finds, and from bodies like UNESCO, which takes his latest claim with a pinch of salt. And with good reason, according to spokesperson Ulrike Guérin, an underwater heritage specialist at UNESCO.

Unsubstantiated claims made by undersea treasure hunter Clifford include the Santa Maria and Adventure Galley. The former was the flagship of Christopher Columbus’ expedition to the Americas, which would have given Clifford legendary status. However, his claim was shot down by UNESCO, which proved, due to the presence of bronze and copper, that the ship found could not be the Santa Maria.

As for the Adventure Galley, it was the flagship of another infamous pirate, Captain William Kidd. Clifford made the claim that he had located it off the coast of Madagascar in 2015. As it turned out, that was not the case – a 100-pound silver ingot provided by Clifford turned out to be 95 percent lead.

The bell, inscribed, "THE WHYDAH GALLY 1716". Photo Credit
The bell, inscribed, “THE WHYDAH GALLY 1716”. Photo Credit

UNESCO has slammed Clifford’s work as unacceptable and sometimes falling short of the standard required. Despite this, Clifford and his team will maintain their course of exploration in uncovering the secrets that surround the Whydah Gally, which he hopes will quieten down his detractors, Mail Online reported.

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Most of the archaeological finds from the Whydah Gally are on display at the newly established Whydah Pirate Museum on Cape Cod. Clifford hopes that this claim will be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News