A Pirate’s Death for Me: Black Bellamy’s Drowned Crew Found in Largest American Mass Buccaneer Burial Ground
The notorious pirate “Black Sam” Bellamy sailed the seven seas, plundering and pirating, becoming the richest buccaneer ever known. But the crew drowned when their ship was wrecked, and the 102 lost souls have been found buried in a secret location in Massachusetts – the largest mass pirate burial ground in America.
Buried Treasure-Trove of History
At a site that remains a secret for now, America’s largest mass pirate burial ground has been discovered. According to The Telegraph , archaeologists believe the area is the final resting place of Captain “Black Sam” Bellamy's crew, who drowned when their ship, the Whydah Galley, was wrecked at sea in 1717.
In the striking find, more than 100 sets of remains give clues in the story of Bellamy – the richest pirate in history – and his dedicated crew.
The bones of over 100 pirates have been recovered. Representative image. ( Public Domain )
Lead investigator Casey Sherman told The Telegraph, "We believe that we have found the largest mass burial ground in the US.’
‘Over 100 pirates washed ashore on Cape Cod [after the wreck], and our team believe that we have located it.’
‘It's very hallowed ground... Almost every day we're learning more about what happened 300 years ago.”
It’s not certain yet if Bellamy’s bones are among the dead, but researchers are hoping to discover the fate of the notorious seadog.
Samuel Bellamy - Prince of Pirates
According to IFLScience, Captain “Black Sam” Bellamy was one of the most notorious pirates of "the seven seas." The ‘Golden Age’ of piracy in the 18th century (romanticized in many a film, including the Pirates of the Caribbean series), saw heavy ships laden with treasure and goods from trade and slavery transported across the seas, and they were ripe for the picking by seafaring robbers.
"...they spread a large black flag, with a Death's Head and Bones across, and gave chase to Cap't. Prince under the same colours." – Thom. Baker (Bellamy's crew). (WarX/ CC BY-SA 3.0 )
Bellamy was an effective captain, becoming the richest pirate the world has ever known, accumulating wealth equivalent to $120 million in today’s money.
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Silver recovered from the wreck of the Whydah off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. ( Public Domain )
As a captain, Samuel became known as a Black Bellamy , writes Natalia Klimczak for Ancient Origins. He cast off the high powdered wigs of the establishment, and wore his long, black hair tied with a cord.
History remembers him as a tall, strong, well-mannered and very stylish and roguish man. His initial flagship was the Sultana , famous for its many powerful cannons. Due to his talents as a good strategist, together they managed to capture bigger, treasure-laden ships without damaging them; 53 or more in his brief pirating career that lasted under a year. His jewel, however, was the Whydah Galley .
Model of the Whydah Galley ( CC BY 2.0 )
Ashley Cowie writes, “Built in England in 1715, The Whydah Gally was a 300-ton, 102-foot-long (31 m) English slave ship, was fitted with 18 cannons, but Bellamy beefed it up with 10 more. The ship could reach speeds of up to 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph) and under the command of Bellamy it plundered 54 ships in the Caribbean in 1716 and 1717. Historical reports detailing her inventory when she went down recorded ‘about four or five tons of silver and gold, indigo, Jesuit's bark, ivory and other precious trade goods.”
His impressive career was brief, however, as he is thought to have perished with his crew in 1717, at the age of 28.
Final Pirate Resting Place
Now, at the currently-hidden location at Cape Cod, archaeologists examine the remains of Bellamy’s crew who were plucked from the sand after washing ashore and given a land burial.
With the burials, archaeologists have found vaults, 17th century cutlery and pottery, and the homesteads of the locals who buried the dead pirates.
Skeletal remains from the pirate ship Whydah Gally inside a mass of hardened sand and stone. (Image: Whydah Pirate Museum )
Once the investigations are complete, the site location can be revealed, and a memorial set up. Sherman told The Telegraph that Bellamy’s was a mixed crew, counting Native Americans and runaway slaves among their number.
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Massachusets’ Telegram reports, “It’s been nearly thirty-five years since Barry Clifford announced that he had recovered the wreckage of a pirate ship, the Whydah, nearly 200 yards (183 meters) off Wellfleet, Cape Cod. It lay under fourteen feet on water and five feet of sand. It had been there since 1717, when, loaded with valuables, it foundered and sank in a coastal storm. Over the years, Clifford and his team have recovered a trove of gold and silver coins and thousands of other valuable items estimated to be worth $400 million. It is one of the outstanding undersea discoveries in history.”
Barry Clifford Talks Pirate Ship Discovery (National Geographic 2013)
The bell, inscribed, "THE WHYDAH GALLEY 1716" ( CC BY 2.0 )
Bellamy Bones Found at Last?
The team is hoping to finally determine if Bellamy’s remains are among those buried at the site. Last February, researchers announced they believed they had found Bellamy’s bones.
Human remains from the site, encased in sand and rock. ( Image: Whydah Pirate Museum)
CapeCod.com reports that Sherman is traveling to “Hittisleigh, England to obtain the DNA of a descendant of Bellamy in hopes of matching it to a sample being retrieved from bones by forensic scientists.”
Sherman said the trip is about more than just getting a DNA sample. He explains, “I want to learn more about the Bellamy family history so that we can use that as an educational tool for the museum moving forward.”
Top Image: A pirate burial ground has been located in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. (Pubic Domain/Deriv)
By Liz Leafloor