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The Legendary Flagship of Captain Black Bellamy, Wealthiest Pirate in History

Katie Vernon

Back in 1984, American underwater archeologist and explorer Barry Clifford discovered the wreck site of the ship Whydah which sank in 1717, during one of the most brutal storms in history.

The final resting place of the Whydah’s crew, however, remained undocumented until March 2018 — 300 years after their demise — when researchers discovered what is now considered the largest mass pirate burial ground in America, off the coast of Cape Cod.

The Whydah was a ship constructed for the slave transportation trade, but it was acquired by Black Bellamy, the richest pirate in history according to Forbes, while on its maiden voyage.

Samuel Bellamy, Wreck of the Whydah.

Samuel Bellamy, Wreck of the Whydah.

Captain Samuel Bellamy earned his nickname Black Bellamy because of his refusal to wear the powdered wigs beloved by the aristocracy during the 18th century.

Instead, he tied his long black hair in a ponytail with a satin bow.

Bellamy was very clean and stylish — he dressed in a deep-cuffed velvet coat, accessorized with four flintlock pistols, and wore silver-buckled shoes.

Model of the Whydah Gally. Photo by Richard Haddad

Model of the Whydah Gally. Photo by Richard Haddad

He was also known as a very righteous and democratic captain, always leaving his men to vote on important decisions.

His crew loved him and called him the “Robin Hood of the Sea.” Bellamy enjoyed robbing the rich, saying that “They rob the poor under the cover of law, while we plunder the rich under the cover of our own courage.”

Silver recovered from the wreck of the Whydah. Photo by Theodore Scott – Flickr CC By 2.0

Silver recovered from the wreck of the Whydah. Photo by Theodore Scott – Flickr CC By 2.0

Samuel Bellamy was a Royal Navy sailor from Devon, England, who was left jobless after the War of Spanish Succession.

According to some sources, he might have had a wife and a child in his hometown, but legend has it that while in Boston, Bellamy fell in love with Mary Hallett.

The bell, inscribed “THE WHYDAH GALLEY 1716.” Photo by jjsala CC BY 2.0

The bell, inscribed “THE WHYDAH GALLEY 1716.” Photo by jjsala CC BY 2.0

She was the daughter of a very wealthy landowner who forbade Mary to marry an out-of-work sailor who didn’t even have a ship.

Hence his life of piracy was sparked. It didn’t last long, but during a period of three years Bellamy became the wealthiest pirate captain of the Golden Age of Piracy, amassing a fortune worth some $120 million in today’s terms.

Forbes lists Bellamy’s counterpart Blackbeard as 10th on the list of richest pirates in history, while Sir Francis Drake, who was a privateer during the reign of Elizabeth I, comes in second.

The Golden Hinde, a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s famous galleon at Southwark, London, UK. Photo by Oxfordian Kissuth CC BY-SA 3.0

The Golden Hinde, a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s famous galleon at Southwark, London, UK. Photo by Oxfordian Kissuth CC BY-SA 3.0

Captain Black Bellamy was known for his tricky tactics of intimidating other ships to surrender instead of fighting them into submission, and for never killing anyone who surrendered.

He always invited the captured sailors to join his crew, with the words: “Ye miserable victims of the earth, who serve kings, princes, and lords for a miserly pittance scarce big enough to keep body and soul together.”

The location of the wrecked Whydah Gally in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod.

The location of the wrecked Whydah Gally in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod.

In February 1717, Bellamy captured the Whydah and made it his flagship, acquiring four and a half tons of silver and gold.

Unfortunately, the ship was caught in stormy seas while on a course for Boston, where Mary Hallett was waiting. The ship went down and Bellamy was never able to claim the hand of his true love.

Model of the Whydah Galley. Photo by jjsala – Flickr CC BY 2.0

Model of the Whydah Galley. Photo by jjsala – Flickr CC BY 2.0

Out of 142 strong men, only two survived –- the carpenter and the navigator. The bodies of about 100 of the men washed ashore and were discovered by the inhabitants of the nearby settlement of Freshbook who buried the dead bodies in a mass grave.

More than 30, including Bellamy, were never accounted for. The plunder from 50 ships was lost on the bottom of the sea, guarded by white sharks.

Since his discovery of the wreck in 1984, Mr. Clifford has retrieved some 200,000 artifacts worth more than $400 million. The exploration continues, and researchers believe that they might have found the remains of Black Bellamy.

Read another story from us: How Pirates Met Their Final Justice

As for the mass grave on shore, expedition leader Casey Sherman has said that he cannot share the exact location yet, but he hopes that someday it will become a public memorial.