Monday, February 23, 2009

Happy Birthday, Black Sam

Today is the 320th anniversary of the birth of "Black Sam" Bellamy, nicknamed the "Prince of Pirates."

Bellamy was born in England, became a sailor, and sailed to Cape Cod. There he met a girl so fair: Maria Hallett. She was so fair that he decided to scour the coast of Florida looking for shipwrecks to bring her treasure. When he couldn't find any, he turned pirate.

He first joined Benjamin Hornigold's crew on the Mary Anne. In 1716, Bellamy took command of the Mary Anne. He later captured a better ship, the Sultana. Bellamy was known for his mercy and generosity. When he captured the 300-ton slaving ship, the Whydah Galley, he gave its captain the Sultana. The Whydah Galley was laden with ivory, gold, and silver. Evidently he had finally captured enough for his lady love, for he sailed back to Cape Cod.

Tragically, he never saw Maria again. The Whydah Galley was caught in a storm off the cape, wrecked, and went under the tide. Nine men from Bellamy's fleet made it ashore, and all but two were captured.

Bellamy himself went down with the Whydah Galley. The ship and some of its treasure were recovered by treasure hunters in 1984. Many of the artifacts are on display at the Expedition Whydah Sea Lab & Learning Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. There is also currently a travelling exhibit with Whydah artifacts called Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship. It just moved to The Field Museum in Chicago & the show opens on Wednesday.

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