The Whydah Gally was built in London in 1715, primarily as a slave ship. The captain was an experienced slave trader who steered the ship’s maiden voyage, for which it was equipped with firearms, gunpowder, pewterware, clothes, bar iron, liquor, and an array of goods for exchange.
The Whydah departed from London to West Africa acquired approximately 500 enslaved people along the way, and subsequently traveled to the Caribbean to trade them for precious metals, spices, and other valuables that would be brought back to England. However, destiny would soon drastically change the Whydah’s mission.
In 1717, the ship was on a regular journey close to Cuba and Hispaniola Island when it was attacked by pirates under the command of Captain Samuel Bellamy. The Whydah was converted to a pirate ship, and some of the crew even stayed on and joined Bellamy’s gang.
As a new pirate ship, the Whydah sailed past the Carolinas and up the United States east coast in search of capturing more ships and raiding in the open sea. But its quest was halted on April 26, 1717, when the ship approached a nor’easter storm off Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The Whydah capsized and sank off the coast, remaining in the ocean for many centuries to come.
In 1984, a Cape Cod native and underwater archaeologist discovered the wreck off the coast of Wellfleet. The team recovered approximately 200 artifacts from the sunken vessel, including a bell with “the Whydah Gally 1716” inscribed on it, cannons, weapons, and silver and gold coins—a real pirate treasure. According to the Whydah Pirate Museum, the recovered loot is the only authenticated pirate treasure on exhibit in the world, and the largest collection of pirate-related artifacts ever found on a single shipwreck.
Know Before You Go
The museum is located in West Yarmouth, Cape Cod, and there is free parking on site. Hours vary by season so check the website. Group reservations can be made in advance.