Break out your eye patches and discover the world’s only pirate
treasure at the Milwaukee Public Museum.
Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship and Pirate
Ship” exhibition that opened at the Milwaukee Public Museum on
Friday includes more than 200 artifacts ranging from cannons and
pirate accessories to treasure that went down with the ship
important thing to keep in mind is this is the only pirate
treasure that’s ever been found,” said Barry Clifford, the
underwater explorer who discovered the wreck. “There is no
first fully authenticated pirate ship discovered in American
waters,” Clifford added. “We can trace everything on the
Whydah to the real pirate, ‘Black Sam’ Bellamy.”
captured the Whydah off the Bahamas in February 1717, it was
operating as a slave galley between Africa and America. Forty-foot
waves sank the ship on April 26, 1717, off the Massachusetts coast
with treasures from more than 50 captured ships going down with
Two members of
the 146-man crew survived.
he began looking into the ship after hearing rumors regarding a
pirate ship that had sunk hundreds of years ago. He discovered the
first remains of the Whydah in 1984.
the Whydah was the most exciting moment in my career,” Clifford
said. “The sheer volume of artifacts the Whydah carried, from
more than 50 other ships captured by the pirate captain Sam
Bellamy and his men, provides a rare window into the otherwise
mysterious world of 18th century pirates.”
Pirates” exhibition tells the story of four members of the
Whydah crew. One includes the youngest known pirate aboard the
Whydah, Johnny King, who was believed to be 9 years old at the
time of the shipwreck. Excavators found his leg bone, silk
stocking and leather shoe in the wreck of the Whydah.
visitors can also check out what was going on below the Whydah’s
decks the day it went down, as well as examine the gold the
to learn more about the ship’s history can hear tales of how the
Whydah held slaves captive below deck, including the types of
chains used to hold the ship’s captives.
Among the vast
range of treasures discovered by Clifford is the ship’s bell.
Legend has it, Clifford said, that bells are the spirits of ships.
The brass bell is engraved with “Whydah Gally 1716,” which he
said helped confirmed the identity of the discovered ship.
attention-grabbing artifact pulled from the wrecked ship includes
pirate grenades. The grenades were filled with chemicals such as
sulfur and pitch, lighted and thrown aboard other ships to smoke
out the enemy.
course, there’s the real treasure.
2,500 silver pieces and other coins found in the Whydah’s
wreckage fill exhibition chests. The displays represent coins from
all around the world that were taken by Bellamy and his crew. Not
only can visitors look at the pieces of eight, but they’re also
invited to touch the coins in an interactive display.
of this pirate ship is a better tale than any movie could tell,
said Jeffrey Bolster, a professor of early American and Caribbean
history at the University of New Hampshire, who is also a member
of an advisory panel that reviews and provides feedback on the
contents of the exhibition.
cache of artifacts brought to the surface by Clifford and his
team, we see a world generally undisclosed, one in which the
Caribbean was the economic center and values were very different;
an era before civil rights, before individual liberties and before
democracy was institutionalized,” Bolster said. “Without the
slave trade and the wealth of the region, piracy would not have
existed. This is a story of the making of America - a true story
more powerful than fiction.”
of the buried ship has been ongoing for more than two decades, but
Clifford said there’s still much more to be discovered.
more to be found,” he said. “We are still very much active.”
runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through May 27, with extended
hours until 8 p.m. on Thursdays, at the Milwaukee Public Museum,
800 W. Wells St. Tickets prices Mondays through Thursdays are
adults $24, seniors $22 and children $17.50. Friday-through-Sunday
prices are adults $26, seniors $24 and children $18.50. Admission
to the rest of the museum is included.
information, visit www.mpm.edu or call 414-223-4676.