Six Pirate Skeletons From 1717 Bellamy Shipwreck Found!

Six Pirate Skeletons From 1717 Bellamy Shipwreck Found!


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Seaborne salvage operations at Cape Cod have recovered the pirate remains of at least six buccaneers who were lost at sea more than three centuries ago. At the time of their watery demise these unfortunate souls were part of a crew of 146 men serving on a pirate ship called the Whydah, which struck a sandbar and capsized before sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast from Wellfleet (Massachusetts) in 1717.

Whydah Pirate Remains Continue To Be Found

While searching the wreck of the Whydah during a recent dive, a team of archaeologists and researchers affiliated with the Whydah Pirate Museum in Yarmouth, Massachusetts found several concretions (heavy blocks of sand and stone that congeal on the seabed) embedded with artifacts from the sunken ship.

A model of the Whydah ship that went down off Cape Cod in 1717 with Captain Sam Bellamy aboard. The recently recovered pirate remains might include his skeleton. Source: jjsala / CC BY 2.0

Following the completion of their recovery operation the researchers scanned the concretions with X-rays to see what was trapped on the inside. In 2018 the same team had recovered a concretion that contained the skeletal remains of one lost pirate , they were hoping to find something similar this time—and those hopes were not disappointed.

So far, examinations have revealed the entombed bones of six separate individuals, who were among the 40 remaining Whydah crew members whose remains had still yet to be unaccounted for.

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Most of the bodies of the men who drowned on that fateful evening in 1717 washed up on shore shortly thereafter. But among the bodies that have never been recovered is that of Captain “Black Sam” Bellamy , who during his brief yet glorious career captured 53 ships and approximately $130 million worth of treasure (in today’s dollars).

According to Forbes Magazine, Bellamy was the richest of all the legendary pirate captains. But his fortune ran out the night he sailed his unsuspecting crew into the vicious and unforgiving winds of a massive storm (a dreaded nor’easter) that suddenly developed in the treacherous shallow waters off the Cape Cod coast.

Some of the pirate gold initially recovered by Barry Clifford from the Whydah shipwreck off the coast of Cape Cod. (Theodore Scott / CC BY 2.0 )

The pirate remains discovered in 2018 were tested against a DNA sample recovered from a confirmed living relative of the long-lost captain, who was found residing in the captain’s hometown of Devonshire, England. But the results of those tests were negative, leaving the mystery of Bellamy’s exact whereabouts still unsolved.

“We hope that modern, cutting-edge technology will help us identify these pirates and reunite them with any descendants who could be out there,” said underwater archaeologist and Whydah Pirate Museum founder Barry Clifford, who led the expedition that found the recent pirate remains.

“These newly found skeletal remains may finally lead us to Bellamy,” added Casey Sherman, a New York Times bestselling author who has been chronicling the Whydah story for many years.

Captain “Black Sam” Bellamy, who during his brief yet glorious career captured 53 ships and approximately $130 million worth of treasure in today’s dollars. (User:Rambo101 / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

The Robin Hood of the Sea

It was Barry Clifford who found the capsized remains of the Whydah back in 1984. To this day, the Whydah is the only authenticated wrecked pirate ship to ever be discovered, in any waters near any coast.

Over the past three-plus decades, the Whydah has yielded more than 200,000 recovered artifacts, including gold and silver coins, eating utensils, buttons, cufflinks, a pistol, a belt, and also the ship’s bell, which carried the inscription “The Whydah Galley, 1716.”

The Whydah was constructed in England in 1715. It was 102 feet (31 meters) long and weighed 300 tonnes (600,000 pounds) and was loaded with 18 cannons. Originally commissioned as a slave ship for the brutal and notorious Atlantic slave trade , the Whydah was returning from the Caribbean loaded with a valuable cargo of gold, ivory, indigo, when it was chased down and captured by Sam Bellamy and his crew in Bellamy’s original ship, the Marianne.

Impressed by the state-of-the-art design and engineering of the Whydah, Bellamy took the ship as his own, fitting it with 10 extra cannons to make sure it had the firepower he required.

Despite his nickname of “Black Sam,” the 28-year-old Bellamy was a beloved captain who was well known for treating his captives mercifully and his men with consideration and respect. His loyal crew members frequently referred to him as “Robin Hood,” seeing in Bellamy a heroic figure who took from the rich to redistribute to the poor—represented in this case by Bellamy’s crew members and their families.

A master strategist, Bellamy orchestrated his attacks carefully to avoid violent conflict if possible. He generally used two ships to converge on his targets simultaneously, to make it easier to complete a capture without firing a shot.

A ship as fast, strong, and sturdy as the Whydah was ideal for his purposes. With the Whydah occupying the lead position in his pirate fleet, Bellamy might have eventually become the most legendary and renowned of all the captains of the Golden Age of Piracy —if only he had chosen a different course on that one terrible night, when the darkest winds of fate lay in ambush just up ahead along the deceptively tranquil Cape Cod coast.

The galley (dining room) bell of the Whydah pirate ship. (jjsala / CC BY 2.0 )

Despite Samuel Bellamy’s Tragic Demise, His Legacy Lives

Speaking of the discovery that has become his life’s work, Barry Clifford feels blessed to have been associated with such an historic find.

“This shipwreck is very sacred ground,” he told reporters while announcing the discovery of the six new skeletons. “We know a third of the crew was of African origin and the fact they had robbed the Whydah, which was a slave ship, presents them in a whole new light. Their benevolent captain, the legendary Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy and crew were experimenting in democracy long before the so-called civilized societies had considered such a thing.”

In assessing its scientific value as an underwater excavation and exploration site, Casey Sherman has previously referred to the wreck of the Whydah as “the maritime equivalent of King Tut’s Tomb.”

The discovery of the six pirate skeletons has added a whole new dimension to the story, and if one of these skeletons is eventually shown to belong to Captain Samuel Bellamy that would be analogous to finding King Tut himself.


An amazing discovery of at least six pirate skeleton remains were found at the wreck site of a shipwreck off the coast of Cape Cod in 1717, the investigative team from The Whydah Pirate Museum announced.

The Whydah was the name of the ship that went down off Wellfleet, Massachusetts. The skeletons were found in several large concretions and are now being examined by underwater archeological explorer Barry Clifford, who first discovered the wreckage in 1984 along with his team of archeologists, News3-WREG Memphis

The captain of The Whydah, Samuel &ldquoBlack Sam&rdquo Bellamy, has been named one of the most important pirates of the &ldquoGolden Age of Piracy,&rdquo which took place between 1690 and 1725, according to the museum. He was also considered the most successful pirate in history, WREG reported.

Clifford describes the shipwreck as a very &ldquosacred ground.&rdquo He also noted Bellamy and his crew experimented with democracy.

&ldquoWe hope that modern, cutting-edge technology will help us identify these pirates and reunite them with any descendants who could be out there,&rdquo Clifford said in a statement.

In 2018, Casey Sherman, one of the Whydah team members, discovered Bellamy&rsquos DNA through a bloodline descendent in England. Sherman had the sample tested against a human bone found in the wreck, according to the museum, The New York Post reported.

&ldquoThat bone was identified as a human male with general ties to the Eastern Mediterranean area,&rdquo Sherman said. &ldquoThese newly found skeletal remains may finally lead us to Bellamy, as we now have his DNA.&rdquo

The new findings are currently on display at The Whydah Pirate Museum, which has thousands of items from the ancient shipwreck and houses in what the museum calls the &ldquolargest collection of private artifacts recovered from a single shipwreck anywhere in the world.&rdquo


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'These newly found skeletal remains may finally lead us to Bellamy as we now have his DNA.'

The concretion in which the remains of the Whydah pirate was found is now on display at the museum and at discoverpirates.com.

Bellamy's body is among 40 never found or identified.

Most of the treasure from the wreck is still thought to remain on the ocean floor.

Archaeologists have since recovered 200,000 artifacts, including gold coins.

Forbes listed Bellamy as the highest-earning pirate ever, plundering about $130 million worth of treasure.

Black Sam: The most infamous and successful pirate ever to sail the sea

Pirate Samuel 'Black Sam' Bellamy

Born: February 23, 1689 | Died: April 26, 1717

Black Sam was born in Devonshire, England, and joined the British navy in his late teens before pirating in the West Indies and elsewhere for little more than a year.

He is famous for being one of the original members of the Flying Gang pirates from the Post Spanish Succession Period.

Bellamy launched the careers of some of the most infamous pirates of all time, including Benjamin Hornigold and Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach.

He is regarded as the most successful pirate in recorded history. He and his crew captured more than 53 ships and plundered a loot of $130 million.

The pirate liked expensive and flashy clothes, and usually carried four dueling pistols in his sash.

His strategy was to use two ships during warfare at sea. A larger one would be heavily armed and a smaller one would be used to block and capture targets.

The Whydah was a state of the art ship built in 1715 in England. It weighed 300 tonnes, was 102 feet long and loaded with 18 cannons.

At midnight on April 26, 1717 Bellamy and his crew were caught in a violent Nor'easter storm off the coast of Cape Cod. The Whydah capsized and sunk.

More than 100 bodies were washed ashore in the days that followed. The only survivors were former slave John Julian and crewman Thomas Davis.

Bones appear on x-rays that have been used to examine what was inside the concretion

Pictures is part of the newly found skeletal remains found onboard the Whydah

Archaeologists uncovered these hardened masses of stone and sand - inside are human remains believed to be those of some of Black Sam's crew, who were given a land burial after being washed ashore when their ship the Whydah Gally went down in April 1717

Archaeologist Marie Kesten Zahn works to remove silver coins from a concretion recovered from the wreckage of the pirate ship

Buckles, cufflinks, and buttons found on the ocean floor after the Whydah sunk have been displayed by the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

The former slave ship, commanded by the English pirate Samuel 'Black Sam' Bellamy, went down in stormy seas off Wellfleet, Massachusetts, in 1717, killing all but a handful of the nearly 150-person crew

The Whydah's bell was also recovered from the wreckage

The Whydah was a state-of-the-art ship built in 1715 in England. It weighed 300 tonnes, was 102 feet long and loaded with 18 cannons.

But at midnight on April 26, 1717 Bellamy and his crew were caught in a violent Nor'easter storm off the coast of Cape Cod.

Even though they were in sight of land, the storm claimed their beloved Whydah when it hit a sandbar, capsized and sank as the wind and swells of up to 30ft raged around them.

Only two of the 146 men on board survived and the bodies of more than 100 crew members were washed ashore in the days that followed and given a land burial in Massachusetts.

Crewman Thomas Davis, a Welsh carpenter, was among the few crew members who survived and much of what is known about Bellamy came from his stories.

Black Sam was born in Devonshire, England, and joined the British navy in his late teens before pirating in the West Indies and elsewhere for little more than a year.

Barry Clifford stands next to a display case containing silver coins recovered from the wreckage of the Whydah Gally at the Whydah Pirate Museum

Treasure chests filled with silver pieces - replicas of the trinkets found by Whydah investigators - were displayed at the National Geographic Society in Washington D.C.

The 10 richest pirates to sail the seas

1. Samuel 'Black Sam' Bellamy : $130 million

2. Sir Francis Drake: $115 million

5. Bartholomew 'Black Bart' Roberts: $32 million

6. Jean Fleury: $31.5 million

7. Thomas White: $16 million

9. Harry Morgan: $13 million

10. Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach: $12.5 million

He is famous for being one of the original members of the Flying Gang pirates from the Post Spanish Succession Period and launched the careers of some of the most infamous pirates of all time.

Hugely successful at sea, his strategy was to use two ships: a larger one would be heavily armed and a smaller one would be used to block and capture targets.

And his personal tastes were expensive.

He liked flashy clothes - especially black coats - and usually carried four dueling pistols in his sash while marauding at sea.

His nickname Black Sam came from the fact he wore his black locks tied back in a ponytail rather than a powdered white wig.

Also known as the Prince of Pirates, he was popular among women.

Tall, strong and with long dark hair, he was said to be well-mannered and tidy.

He left his wife and child in England to begin his new life at sea, sailing to the coast of Florida to look for sunken Spanish treasure.

On the way he stopped off in Eastham Harbor, Massachusetts, where he met local beauty Maria Hallett.

Though her parents liked Black Sam, they thought he was far too poor for their daughter, who was just 15 at the time.

He left Massachusetts with his friend Paulsgrave William, vowing to return as the respected captain of the greatest ship the world had ever seen.

Different types of grenades found on the ocean floor have been displayed by the Denver Museum of Nature and Science


Pirate skeletons found in famed 1717 Cape Cod shipwreck, Report

At least six new pirate skeletons have been discovered from a legendary 300-year-old shipwreck off the coast of Cape Cod.

The Whydah Galley was an early 18th Century slave ship that reportedly held more than 4.5 tons of gold and silver. The Whydah was captured by Captain “Black Sam” Bellamy and his crew in February 1717, and it sank off Wellfleet during a nor’easter a few months later, killing Bellamy and others.

The shipwreck was discovered in 1984 by famed explorer Barry Clifford and his diving team, which included John F. Kennedy Jr. The ship was found loaded with the stolen treasures of 54 seized ships, and Captain “Black Sam” was inevitably listed by Forbes Magazine as the most successful pirate in history. A concretion holding the remains of the original Whydah pirate is currently on display at the Whydah Pirate Museum on Cape Cod.

The Museum said the six new skeletal remains were identified in “several large concretions,” and are currently being examined by Clifford and his team of archeologists.

“We hope that modern, cutting-edge technology will help us identify these pirates and reunite them with any descendants who could be out there,” said Clifford. “This shipwreck is very sacred ground. We know a third of the crew was of African origin and the fact they had robbed the Whydah, which was a slave ship, presents them in a whole new light. Their benevolent captain, the legendary Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy and crew were experimenting in democracy long before the so-called civilized societies had considered such a thing.”

In 2018, Whydah team member Casey Sherman obtained Captain Bellamy’s DNA through a bloodline descendent in Devonshire, England, and had the sample tested against a human bone found in the wreck.

“That bone was identified as a human male with general ties to the Eastern Mediterranean area,” Sherman said. “These newly found skeletal remains may finally lead us to Bellamy, as we now have his DNA.”

X-Ray images of the newly-discovered bones include an entire thorax, and an upper extremity arm dislocated from the scapula.


Six, 18th Century Pirate Skeletons Just Found off Cape Cod (Photos)

Investigators have made a recent discovery of historic proportions. The skeletal remains of six bodies have been recovered off the coast of Massachusetts, with one of the skeletons thought to be that of notorious 18th century pirate Captain “Black Sam” Bellamy, according to the HUFFINGTON POST.

Silver coins being removed from a concretion at the shipwreck of the Whydah

Black Sam’s ship, the Whydah Galley, sank off of Cape Cod during a bad storm in 1717, with only two of the 146 crewmembers surviving. It is the only verified pirate ship in the world and was discovered in 1984. Underwater explorer Barry Clifford is credited with finding shipwreck as well as the skeletons, which were discovered after carefully chipping away at concretions–hard, compact masses of matter–and are currently under examination by a team of archaeologists with the Whydah Pirate Museum.

DNA samples taken from descendants of Samuel Bellamy will be used against the skeletal remains in hopes of finding a match to the famed pirate.

Treasures recovered from the shipwreck

“We hope that modern, cutting-edge technology will help us identify these pirates and reunite them with any descendants who could be out there,” Clifford said to 7 NEWS BOSTON.

Captain Black Sam Bellamy got his moniker due to his nontraditional hairstyle, choosing to grow out is naturally black locks instead of wearing the traditional white powdered wigs indicative of the period. The New England Historical Society states that Bellamy considered himself a sort of ‘Robin Hood,’ and called his crew “Robin Hood’s Men.”


Six Pirate Skeletons Discovered off Massachusetts Coast

Six pirate’s skeletons have been discovered off the coast of Wellfleet, Massachusetts where Capt. Samuel "Black Sam" Bellamy’s Whydah Gally went down in a 1717 storm.

The discovery was made by a team from the Whydah Pirate Museum, which has been looking for treasure from the Whydah Gally since underwater explorer Barry Clifford found the ship’s remains in 1984.

Clifford says they hope to identify the pirates. They already have DNA from one of Bellamy’s relatives in England. “We hope that modern, cutting-edge technology will help us identify these pirates and reunite them with any descendants who could be out there,” Clifford said.

According to Wikipedia, The Whydah Gally was a 110-foot, square-rigged, three-masted galley ship that was originally built as a passenger, cargo, and slave vessel. On the return leg of her maiden voyage of the triangle trade, Whydah Gally was captured in the Caribbean by the pirate Captain Samuel "Black Sam" Bellamy.


Remains of at least six pirates found in 1717 Whydah shipwreck off Cape Cod

At least six more skeletons have been unearthed from the site of the 1717 Whydah shipwreck off Cape Cod, the investigative team from the Whydah Pirate Museum in West Yarmouth said.

The remains were identified in several large concretions and are now being examined by underwater explorer Barry Clifford and his team of archaeologists.

“We hope that modern, cutting-edge technology will help us identify these pirates and reunite them with any descendants who could be out there,” said Clifford, who discovered the Whydah Galley, the world’s only authenticated pirate wreck, in 1984, when his first mate was John F. Kennedy Jr. “This shipwreck is very sacred ground.”

The Whydah was a slave ship that was taken over by pirates, many of whom previously had been slaves themselves, headed by their captain, Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy, who was the highest-earning pirate ever, having plundered an estimated $120 million over the course of his career, according to Forbes Magazine.

His biggest windfall was in February of 1717, when he and his crew captured the Whydah, which reportedly held more than 4 1/2 tons of gold and silver. Bellamy took the Whydah as his new flagship and gave one of his old vessels to the defeated crew, according to Forbes.

By the time the Whydah went down in a nor’easter off Wellfleet in April of 1717, there were well over 100 pirates on board, a third of them former slaves who had an equal share of the treasure and could vote on decisions that were made, Clifford said.

“Their benevolent captain … and crew were experimenting in democracy long before the so-called civilized societies had considered such a thing,” he said.

Whydah team member and New York Times best-selling author author Casey Sherman obtained Bellamy’s DNA through a bloodline descendent in Devonshire, England, in 2018 and had the sample tested against a human bone from the wreck by forensic scientists from the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences at the University of New Haven.

“That bone was identified as a human male with general ties to the Eastern Mediterranean area,” Sherman said. “These newly found skeletal remains may finally lead us to Bellamy as we now have his DNA.”

The Whydah team has one complete skeleton in its lab and pieces of other bones in other concretions, which look like large chunks of lava and now serve essentially as time capsules, Clifford said. Several of the bones are broken because when the ship wrecked, it overturned and fell on top of the pirates, he said.

“We found bones some years ago belonging to a boy pirate, since identified as John King,” Clifford said. “One of the bones was in a silk stocking in a size-6 shoe.”


Six Pirate Skeletons Discovered In Whydah Shipwreck Off Cape Cod

WEST YARMOUTH, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — At least six new pirate skeletons have been discovered from a legendary 300-year-old shipwreck off the coast of Cape Cod.

The Whydah Galley was an early 18th Century slave ship that reportedly held more than 4.5 tons of gold and silver. The Whydah was captured by Captain "Black Sam" Bellamy and his crew in February 1717, and it sank off Wellfleet during a nor'easter a few months later, killing Bellamy and others.

The shipwreck was discovered in 1984 by famed explorer Barry Clifford and his diving team, which included John F. Kennedy Jr. The ship was found loaded with the stolen treasures of 54 seized ships, and Captain “Black Sam” was inevitably listed by Forbes Magazine as the most successful pirate in history. A concretion holding the remains of the original Whydah pirate is currently on display at the Whydah Pirate Museum on Cape Cod.

The Museum said the six new skeletal remains were identified in "several large concretions," and are currently being examined by Clifford and his team of archeologists.

"We hope that modern, cutting-edge technology will help us identify these pirates and reunite them with any descendants who could be out there," said Clifford. "This shipwreck is very sacred ground. We know a third of the crew was of African origin and the fact they had robbed the Whydah, which was a slave ship, presents them in a whole new light. Their benevolent captain, the legendary Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy and crew were experimenting in democracy long before the so-called civilized societies had considered such a thing."

In 2018, Whydah team member Casey Sherman obtained Captain Bellamy’s DNA through a bloodline descendent in Devonshire, England, and had the sample tested against a human bone found in the wreck.

"That bone was identified as a human male with general ties to the Eastern Mediterranean area," Sherman said. "These newly found skeletal remains may finally lead us to Bellamy, as we now have his DNA."

X-Ray images of the newly-discovered bones include an entire thorax, and an upper extremity arm dislocated from the scapula.


Robin Hood of the sea

Bellamy is not only remembered as one of the wealthiest pirates in history, but as a fair and firm leader.

According to Clifford, the pirate treated everyone on board his ship equally, including a third of the crew who were Black and formerly enslaved. These "outlaws" were experimenting in democracy, each having the opportunity to vote and an equal share in the treasure, he said.

Bellamy especially hated corrupt people who robbed the poor.

"This is the great irony of the story," Clifford said. "The money that they were robbing is money that paid for slaves. Paid for them. Paid for their families.

"Of course, that's capital crime. It's OK to sell people. But if you're a slave and have escaped, you can't steal the money that paid for your families and yourself."

By the time the Whydah wrecked, Bellamy was worth millions. Ever since then, he's been a figure of fascination for archeologists, including Clifford.


Remains Of At Least 6 Pirates Found At Whydah Shipwreck Site Off Cape Cod

WELLFLEET (CBS) – The skeletal remains of at least six pirates were discovered at the site of a shipwreck that happened off Wellfleet in 1717.

An investigative team from the Whydah Pirate Museum announced the discovery on Wednesday.

A scan of remains found off Wellfleet. (Image Credit: Whydah Pirate Museum)

Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy was the captain of The Whydah.

The skeletons were identified in several large concretions, the museum said. The remains will now be examined by underwater explorer Barry Clifford, a team of archeologists, and other experts.

“We hope that modern, cutting-edge technology will help us identify these pirates and reunite them with any descendants who could be out there,” Clifford said.

Items found at a shipwreck site off Wellfleet. (Image Credit: Whydah Pirate Museum)

The team has previously obtained Bellamy’s DNA through a relative in England. It is being tested against a human bone found in the wreck.

“That bone was identified as a human male with general ties to the Eastern Mediterranean area,” said Sherman. “These newly found skeletal remains may finally lead us to Bellamy as we now have his DNA.”


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