Pirates are one of those strange historical side notes which somehow became deeply embedded into our popular culture. At least, the Walt Disney version of pirates, not the STD-ridden, horrifically violent world of cabin boys, scurvy, and amputations. Pirates were a common threat and nuisance around the world for centuries, and still are in some areas beyond the protection of navies. But these modern day posers have nothing on the storied pirates of old, the swashbuckling tyrants who carved a name for themselves in Western history through their daring acts of looting, pillaging, and naval guerrilla warfare. This week, the remains of one of these legendary pirates and his crew have been discovered in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, possibly solving the mystery of how this infamous pirate captain was finally given a watery grave.
The grave is thought to belong to Captain “Black Sam” Bellamy, the captain of one of the fiercest pirate fleets in the Golden Age of piracy in the 18th century. Bellamy’s fleet captured the Jamaican slave transport Whydah as it was returning to England flush with booty. For two years, Bellamy used the Whydah to wreak havoc upon the eastern seaboard of the colonies until it is believed to have gone down in a storm in 1717. There are a few anecdotal accounts from settlers in Massachusetts which report the discovery of the Whydah and 100 other sailors who washed ashore alongside the wreck. Those accounts were confirmed in 1984 when archaeologists believed they found the wreck, buried inland near Cape Cod.
Researchers from the Whydah Pirate Museum in Cape Cod now believe they have found the remains of the sailors, including Black Sam himself. A 3,500-pound rock-like concretion was pulled from the wreck containing human skeletal remains, and archaeologists have finally extracted DNA samples from bones believed to belong to Bellamy. Researchers believe a pistol found near one of the skeletons matches historical records of Bellamy’s own sidearm. DNA taken from those remains will now be tested against a living relative to determine if they are indeed the bones of Black Sam Bellamy, the “prince of pirates.”