Visiting the Whydah Pirate Museum
At the Whydah Pirate Museum in Yarmouth, visitors are transported to the Golden Age of Piracy. The museum features fascinating and informative displays, including numerous artifacts salvaged from the 1717 shipwreck. These relics include collections of coins and pewter plates from the wreck, cannons and sawn-off guns, as well as the bell (inscribed “Whydah”) that helped Clifford positively identify the ship in 1984.
Following the life of Bellamy and his ship, the museum also includes exhibits on the unique social structure of pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy. For many who were not welcome in the restrictive society of the day, pirate ships were a vestige of freedom and sanctuary in a hostile world. Bellamy’s ship (a commandeered slave ship), like many of the day, was racially diverse, had egalitarian aims, and practiced a brand of democracy on the high seas. The Whydah Pirate Museum noted that approximately 30% of pirates were black, and that Bellamy’s crew also included Native Americans, disenchanted Navy sailors, and others looking to chart their own course in the world. On most pirate ships the captain was elected by popular vote, and all loot was divided evenly among the sailors. Some ships went so far as to break apart valuable jewelry, weighing it out so each man got his share!
The museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives (and gruesome deaths) of pirates, as well as efforts to learn from their artifacts. The lab section of the Yarmouth museum shows real life restoration efforts and the challenges of retrieving long sunken treasure. While it’s a great visit for pirate-enthusiasts and land lubbers of all ages, the museum does feature a good amount of reading and is more geared towards older kids and adults.
Expedition Whydah in Provincetown is open seasonally and features the Sea Lab and Learning Center. This site gives a glimpse into the ongoing efforts to recover artifacts and information from the shipwreck. While the ship sank in 1717, mysteries are still being solved. Skeletal remains discovered in February of 2021 may prove to be those of the infamous captain himself, Sam Bellamy, as well as others in his crew. The remains will be DNA tested and compared to Bellamy’s ancestors.
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