In 1716, the Whydah Gally set sail, a state of the art ship built for the slave trade. Fitted out with shackles in which to chain terrified men, and loaded with iron bars and cowrie shells for use as currency, it transported hundreds if not thousands of slaves. However, this is not the end of the famous ship’s history.
As Denver’s Museum of Nature and Science exhibit shows, the ship went on to be taken over by pirates and was commanded by one of the most famous pirates of the day, “Black Sam” Bellamy, until it was lost at sea – and finally rediscovered.("n") Pirate ships were heavily armed. Cannons were the heaviest artillery against patrolling navy vessels and were kept loaded, ready to fire. More than a dozen cannons have been recovered from the Whydah In February 1917, Captain Pierce of the Whydah was chased in the warm winds of the Caribbean for three days by Bellamy. Bellamy had a reputation for showing mercy to those he captured, and luckily for Pierce, this time he was more than merciful. He decided the Whydah would make a great flagship, so he gave Pierce one of the ships he chased him in and 20 pieces of silver! Fitted with 28 cannons and a crew of 150, it was now ready to take its place in history as a pirate ship.("n") Bellamy and his crew went from coast to coast, raiding and looting other ships along the way, until the Whydah ended up in a violent storm off the coast of Cape Cod. There are split ideas on whether the crew found their way there on purpose or whether they were lost. What is certain, however, is that on the cold and windy night of April 26, 1717, the Whydah hit a sandbar and broke apart. According to National Geographic: “When a giant wave rolled her, her cannon fell from their mounts, smashing through overturned decks along with cannonballs and barrels of iron and nails. Finally, as the ship’s back broke, she split into bow and stern, and her contents spilled across the ocean floor.” Of the few pirates who survived, six were hanged and three were acquitted, while Bellamy died in the wreck.