Pirate skeletons from 1717 shipwreck discovered off Cape Cod coast

Unusual Stories

WEST YARMOUTH, Mass. (WPRI) — At least six pirate skeletons were found in a shipwreck off the coast of Cape Cod, the investigative team from the Whydah Pirate Museum announced Wednesday.

Investigators say the remains were discovered at the wreck site of The Whydah, which went down off Wellfleet, Massachusetts, in 1717. The captain of the ship, Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy, is listed as the most successful pirate in history by Forbes Magazine.

The skeletons were found in several large concretions and are now being examined by Barry Clifford, who first discovered the wreckage in 1984 along with his team of archeologists.

“We hope that modern, cutting-edge technology will help us identify these pirates and reunite them with any descendants who could be out there,” Clifford said.

“This shipwreck is very sacred ground,” he continued. “We know a third of the crew was of African origin and the fact they had robbed the Whydah, which was a slave ship, presents them in a whole new light. Their benevolent captain, the legendary Samuel ‘Black Sam’ Bellamy, and crew were experimenting in democracy long before the so-called civilized societies had considered such a thing.”

Thanks to technological advancements, the University of New Haven is hoping to identify those bones. The most sought-after identity, that of Capt. Bellamy.

Tim Palmbach, the chair of the forensics science department at UNH said, “Here we are, it’s right in New England and he’s the most infamous pirate, and we get a roll in finding out who they are and telling their story…commit to identifying every one of them, finding out who their family is and giving them a full interment and burial the right way.”

Whydah team member Casey Sherman discovered Bellamy’s DNA through a bloodline descendent in England in 2018 and had the sample tested against a human bone found in the wreck, according to the museum.

“That bone was identified as a human male with general ties to the Eastern Mediterranean area,” Sherman said. “These newly found skeletal remains may finally lead us to Bellamy as we now have his DNA.”

Researchers say it’s a huge task. It takes up to a month to extract a single bone.

The concretion holding the remains of the original Whydah pirate is now on display at the museum.

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