260 Years After Sinking, A Pirate Ship Was Found And It Had An Absolute Fortune On It

When we think of pirates, I bet most of us imagine “Pirates of the Caribbean,” both the Johnny Depp movies and Disney ride. However, the Disney take on the pirates is a little… Disney. Fun is had. It’s fiction. Guys in eyeliner are swinging from ship to ship while attached to ropes. People do not perish. At a port bar, everyone unwinds by drinking beer.

When a ship did come under attack by pirates, it wasn’t a fun day of swashbuckling and swinging on ropes. People were killed in front of our eyes. Cut throats occurred. In waters where sharks are present, people were pushed overboard. Ships with hundreds of passengers, many of whom were innocent slaves locked in a lower galley, sank to the bottom of the ocean.

Consider what transpired in 1717 to the Whydah Gally, a ship. On the return trip of its maiden voyage, the ship was captured by the notorious pirate Captain Samuel Bellamy – he’s better known as “Black Sam.”

When it sank, the Whydah Gally was carrying a ship full of pirates and an enormous fortune. A fortune that would take 260 years to be unearthed…

Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

(Image: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Setting Sail

The Whydah Gally was commissioned in London in 1715 by Sir Humphrey Morice. The “first and foremost London slave merchant of his day” was Morice.

Typically, commercial ships from this era are depicted in movies carrying unimportant cargo like spices and other dry products. In reality, a lot of merchant ships were built for one purpose: To transport slaves from Africa westward, then bring other goods from the Americas and Caribbean back to Europe on the return trip.

Not at all sexual. It was evil.

Early in 1716, the Whydah Gally set sail for the first time. When the ship left Africa, it carried roughly 500 slaves, gold and ivory.

A pirate crew led by Black Sam Bellamy ambushed and captured the Whydah as it was traveling through the Caribbean in late February 1717.

Bellamy pursued the Whydah through the Caribbean for three exhausting days before capturing it close to the Bahamas.

A Sunken Fortune

Nine people were alive, but six were hanged. The two survivors who could show that they had been coerced into becoming pirates were released. A 16-year-old Central American crew member was sold as a slave to the great-grandfather of John Quincy Adams. Unfortunately this survivor was hanged 16 years later on other charges. Not a very good life.


Barry, unlike other daydreamers, made his childhood ambitions come true. After earning a degree in history and sociology from Western Colorado University, he devoted his adult life to underwater exploration.

Barry’s childhood fantasies come true in 1984. The wrecked Whydah Gally was discovered just off the coast of Wallfleet, Massachusetts.

Amazingly, she was seated in 20 feet of sand, 500 feet from land.

Barry and his colleagues eventually recovered more than 200,000 pieces of treasure from the ocean after a laborious recovery operation.

$400 million

Who Owns Found Treasure?

Believe it or not, the Whydah Gally still stands as the first and only pirate treasure ship ever to be discovered in American-controlled waters. Nobody was entirely sure who was entitled to the ship’s riches when it was first discovered.

In his majority opinion, Associate Justice Neil L. Lynch concluded that Federal Admiralty law gave title to the wreck to the finder. Finders keepers, weepers, as the saying goes.

Barry Clifford was granted access to the wreckage and all of its belongings as a result of the decision.

As it turned out, Barry’s expert archeological techniques won the court over. He didn’t just go searching for the shipwreck willy-nilly like a pirate. He requested a state permit from the Board of Underwater Archeological Resources prior to beginning the treasure search. Additionally, he secured approval from the Federal Advisory Board for Historic Preservation and the Army Corps of Engineers. When recovering items he followed all generally accepted professional standards and practices for preserving and itemizing historical items.

In essence, he didt every I and crossed every “t.”

A bill was really passed by Congress in 1987 to ensure that this scenario never occurs again. The Federal Abandoned Shipwreck Law stated that starting in 1988, states will have control over shipwrecks in their respective waters. However, if you found a pirate treasure today in American waters, you might wish to “re-find” it over in international waters. This didn’t affect the Whydah since it had been discovered in 1984.

What Happened To The Treasure?

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