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Expedition Whydah: The Story of the World's First Excavation of a Pirate Treasure Ship and the Man Who Found Her

Expedition Whydah: The Story of the World's First Excavation of a Pirate Treasure Ship and the Man Who Found Her

by Barry Clifford, Paul Perry

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A Captivating Account of the Golden Age of Piracy, the Search for Sunken Treasure, and the Business of Underwater Exploration

Bored by his successful life and obsessed with a boyhood dream of lost pirate treasure, Barry Clifford began a quest for legendary pirate Black Sam Bellamy's ship Whydah, which had supposedly wrecked off the coast of Cape Cod more


A Captivating Account of the Golden Age of Piracy, the Search for Sunken Treasure, and the Business of Underwater Exploration

Bored by his successful life and obsessed with a boyhood dream of lost pirate treasure, Barry Clifford began a quest for legendary pirate Black Sam Bellamy's ship Whydah, which had supposedly wrecked off the coast of Cape Cod more than two centuries ago. Ignoring claims that he was a fool and a dreamer, Clifford pressed on, until he unbelievable found the Whydah...and then the real story begins in a spellbinding story that will capture your imagination.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Two great stories in one big book. Business, adventure, and ghosts: from a writer's point of view, this book has everything. Which means, of course, that it has everything from a reader's point of view, too. This is a story of obsession, that of a modern day explorer named Barry Clifford and an 18th-century pirate named 'Black' Sam Bellamy. Bellamy crashed his pirate ship, the Whydah, on the sandy shores of Cape Cod in April of 1717. At least 146 pirates were killed in that crash, along with the booty from 50 ships.Such a crash would have been a heyday for the residents of the impoverished Cape had they been able to reach the capsized vessel. Unfortunately for them, the storm prevented any kind of salvage, and they could only watch in frustration as the ship filled with treasure sank into the voracious sands of the Cape.<>Shortly it disappeared and people forgot exactly where it had sunk. Eventually it became a legend, like so many other 'lost gold' legends around the world....Enter Barry Clifford. It is 266 years later and he is telling Walter Cronkite the story of 'Black' to Sam Bellamy at a Thanksgiving get together at writer William Styron's house.'Why don't you look for the Whydah?' asks Cronkite. And Barry does. Through an exciting process of discovery, he finds the Whydah.

Then the adventure begins, as modern day pirates try to jump his claim and jealous archaeologist try to keep him from bringing up artifacts and treasure.Barry is a human monument to perserverance. Over the years he and his colorful crew have brought up over 100,000 artifacts, including gold, silver and the etherealjewelry of African tribesmen who were hauled as slaves to the New World by the former Captain of Whydah, a slave runner named 'Prince.'What will you get out of this book besides a good read? You'll get an understanding of what 'obsession' and 'pursuit of excellence' means. The cost of finding this legendary pirate ship - the only one in the world to be excavated - has been a high one for Barry. But the reward has been a large one, too. He refuses to sell any of the thousands of artifacts that he has retrieved from this dangerous archaeological site. Instead he is keeping the collection together to contribute to our knowledge of a mysterious subculture, one that contributed to the formation of our nation.
— Paul Perry (paulperry@worldnet.att.net), the Author

Stuart Ferguson
Expedition Whydah offers much interesting, recent information on pirates and provides a balanced look at the modern-day controversies of archeology and race that eventually intruded on Mr. Clifford's successful search. The book is well designed and charmingly illustrated.
The Wall Street Journal
Boston Magazine
An adventurer, enchanted since his youth by pirate Black Sam Bellamy's role in the Whydah shipwreck, realizes his destiny is to find the Whydah and its treasure. ...The real-life story is full of entertaining detail: pirate history, nautical, lore, the dangerous work of sea salvage.
National Geographic Adventure Magazine
Readers drawn into the dangerous straits of this quest will find themselves exhilarated as the pirate ship at last yields up her secrets.
Boston Herald
Teems with a wealth of insight into life on the high seas as Clifford reveals all you would ever want to know about Bellamy's adventures...Clifford's search for the Whydah makes for an entertaining tale: that of a likable rogue moving ever closer to uncovering the history of a long gone, a time when pirates roamed the eastern seaboard proud and free.
Nan Goldberg
The subtitle tells it all: The Story of the World’s First Excavation of a Pirate Treasure Ship, and the Man Who Found Her. The man is Barry Clifford, who grew up on Cape Cod devouring stories of pirate ships and sunken treasure—particularly the tragic romance about a man named Sam, who fell in love with a young woman on the Cape, left her to make his fortune and ended up a pirate on a ship called the Whydah. On his return, the ship foundered on the shore in one of the worst storms in Cape Cod history. His corpse, the story goes, must have washed up virtually in his lover’s backyard. The ship was never found, and some scholars doubted the story’s veracity. Clifford, after a couple of wrong career choices and a bad marriage, got it in his head to find the ship—a Herculean effort that alone is worth the price of the tape. But Clifford’s writing, even with the professional help of Paul Perry, is less than exciting, and his reading is worse. Although these unfortunate elements don’t completely ruin the story, they are still serious flaws.
Kirkus Reviews
Treasure hunter Clifford's (The Pirate Prince, 1993, etc.) second account of discovering the remains of the notorious pirate vessel Whydah is as overburdened with trivial detail as the wreck is with drifting sand. Co-author Perry is also a member of the expediiton team. When the pirate Black Sam Bellamy captured the English slave ship Whydah, it no longer had its terrible human cargo aboard, but indigo and lapis, silver and gold, and a ruby rumored to be as big as a hen's egg. Bellamy turned the fleet vessel into his flagship and used it for plunder until a fierce storm sent the Whydah to the bottom off Cape Cod. In a conversational tone, Clifford tells the story of his infatuation with Bellamy and the Whydah, from his early days on Martha's Vineyard when his uncle would regale him with stories of pirate treasure to be had for the picking, right up through his uncovering of much Whydah booty and, more archaeologically significant, identification of the Whydah, the only pirate ship ever found. Unfortunately, the life of a treasure hunter is a swath of boredom punctuated by rare incandescent moments. Much of the time Clifford is out grubbing for money to finance the search and, laudably, to preserve the artifacts, but it doesn't make for edge-of-the-chair reading. Likewise, court tussles with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts over disposition of the find are as dull as the eye of a dead mackerel. More engaging, perhaps even than the treasure itself, is Clifford's interest in pirates, and particularly his piecing together of Bellamy's life (though the parallels he insinuates between himself and Bellamy are a stretch). Readers won't have to buy into his suggestion that pirates were warriorsin the class struggle to appreciate why many turned to brigandry under the black flag. Despite flashes of excitement when loot surfaces and captivating historical tidbits, Clifford's story lacks drama and excitement. A National Geographic TV special based on the tale airs this spring. (photos, not seen)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Stuff of Daysdreams

I spent much of my childhood following my uncle Bill around Cape Cod. He was a child at heart and didn't mind having me as a constant companion. My mother said that he had money and smarts, but I liked him because he never acted as though he had too much of either. Bill was a Cape native who made a living doing a bit of everything, from fishing to carpentry, and I learned a lot iust by being with him. The times I enjoyed most, though, were spent talking in the fishing shack.

Uncle Bill's fishing shack was an escape from reality. It was a weathered wood structure that leaned from the weight of the honeysuckle vines that had been growing over it for nearly twenty years. Inside were boxes of tools, a couple of chairs, and a pile of ancient fishing net that gave off heat as it rotted away to nothing in the hot sun.

It was there, as I lay on the rotting net and listened in awe to the stories he told, that I first heard the tale of Black Sam Bellamy and Maria Hallett.

I was maybe nine years old when he first told me the story. Bill was standing at the wooden bench working on an engine part when he asked if I had ever heard of Sam Bellamy, the pirate.

"No," I said, turning my full attention to Bill.

"Did you know that Cape Cod was teeming with pirates in the 1700s?" he asked.

Visions of treasure chests being hauled ashore by swarthy and dangerous men flashed through my mind. I wanted to hear more.

"It's true," he said, looking at me matter-of-factly. "In the 1700s there was hardly anybody living on the Cape, just a few hearty souls who, for one reason or another,didn't want to live in Boston or any of the other big cities. It was a perfect place for pirates and all other types of misfits and outcasts to live."

Uncle Bill lit up an unfiltered Camel cigarette and filled the room with a white cloud of smoke that looked like salt haze. He thought a moment and then sat down in one of the creaky chairs. He said nothing until I was leaning forward with anticipation.

"The legend of Black Sam Bellamy and his lover Maria Hallett is a dark version of the Romeo and Juliet story," he said. "It is a story that has captivated people for hundreds of years because it is about love, pirates, a shipwreck, and buried treasure. Best of all, it's true."

Bill took another drag and eyed me through the cigarette smoke that poured from his mouth. The veil of smoke was creepy to me because I could see human shapes in it the way some people see faces in cumulus clouds. I conjured images of pirates in the smoke and held my breath as Uncle Bin took me back in time.

There were always more pirates on the Cape than anywhere else in America. None of them was more respected and feared than Black Sam Bellamy.

He was called Black Sam only after he became a pirate and began to sail under the black flag. Before that, he was just Sam Bellamy, an unemployed seaman from Plymouth, England, who moved to Cape Cod looking for work in the New World.

Bellamy was from the bottom rungs of English society, the abused class, and was forced to work hard just to survive. His mother had died when he was born, and he had probably been out of the house and working hard from the age of ten. I guess Bellamy finally had enough of the English class system and left for America to get a fresh start.

Bellamy arrived in Cape Cod in 1714, when he was twenty-four yearsold. He had relatives here and moved in with them long enough to get on his feet. During this period he met the two people who would change his life. One of these was Paulsgrave Williams, the jeweler who would lend him the money necessary to buy a ship. The second was Maria Hallett, the woman he would love until the day he died.

Maria was a beautiful woman, with long hair the color of straw and eyes as deep and blue as a freshwater pond. Sam met her one perfect June day as he was walking past the cemetery in the town of Wellfleet. She was sitting underneath an apple tree covered by a white mist of apple blossoms. He slowed and then stopped. Wherever he was going was no longer important. He had to meet this girl.

Bellamy introduced himself and soon the two were talking like oldfriends. Maria was only sixteen and excited by the worldly stories that this young Englishman told her. He told her of his difficult childhood in Plymouth, and how hard it was to be raised only by his father. He talked of going to sea in his teenage years to work in the queen's merchant fleet, and how thousands of seamen had been laid off because the war with the Spanish had ended and the size of the navy was cut back.

He told her of his hopes and dreams in the colonies, where a man could work his way to success instead of just work himself to death. Then he told her of another plan, a plan to get rich.

As many as a dozen Spanish ships loaded with chests of gold and silver had sunk in a storm near Florida. The wrecks were supposedly in shallow water, and rumor had it that the gold was available to anyone who could beat the Spanish to the spot. The news was causing a minor gold rush in the colonies, with ships leaving Atlantic ports daily and heading south to the wreck site. There was a good chance that a man could get rich if he got there quickly. It was a chance Bellamy wanted to take.

Maria liked what she saw in Bellamy. He was cocky and not ashamed of being poor. Though her clothing made it obvious that she was from a family with money, Bellamy talked proudly of his lower-class upbringing in England. He was confident and seemed to be driven to succeed, and Maria Eked those qualities. From this first meeting Maria could ten that she wanted to see more of this forthcoming young man.

Maria's parents were not happy with their daughter's new friend. They were successful farmers with high hopes for their beautiful daughter. They thought her interest in this sailor--someone who would be gone at sea most of his life-meant she was deciding on a life of solitude.

Still, against her parents' wishes, Maria continued to see Sam Bellamy. He spent a lot of time at the Great Island Tavern, an establishment that was more than a tavern. Located on an island about two miles from Wellfleet...

Expedition Whydah. Copyright © by Barry Clifford. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Barry Clifford is an undersea explorer who discovered and excavated the Whydah, the first pirate shipwreck ever authenticated, off the coast of Cape Cod. He established the Expedition Whydah Sea Lab and Learning Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he also owns and operates a pirate museum.

Paul Perry is an internationally bestselling author who has co-written nine books on near-death experiences.

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