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

by &

Pub Date: June 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-06-019232-1
Publisher: HarperCollins

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 warriors in 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)