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Cape Cod A Young Pirate Sailed on the Whydah

Members of Barry Clifford’s team have identified the partial remains of the youngest known pirate to sail U.S. waters, a 9-year-old boy who eagerly joined Capt. Black Sam Bellamy’s crew on the infamous pirate ship Whydah.

Teen pirates were quite common during the early 18th century, but “this is the youngest one I have ever come across,” historian Ken Kinkor of the Expedition Whydah Sea-Lab & Learning Center in Provincetown, Mass., said.

The young pirate’s stint aboard the Whydah did not last long. The ship foundered in a storm off Cape Cod only three months later, crashing to the sea floor with all but two of its 102 man crew.

The tale of the pirate, identified as John King, was then pretty much lost to history until explorer Barry Clifford used court documents and an early salvage map to locate the Whydah in 1984. In the last 20 years, Clifford and his crew of divers have recovered more than 100,000 artifacts from the wreck, bringing them to the surface, conserving them, and putting them on display at their museum on the end of a Provincetown pier.

The wreck “was like a 300-year-old Wal-Mart on the bottom of the ocean,” Clifford said, with an unusually broad variety of artifacts stolen from other ships. Despite the quantity of materials recovered, he added, “we’ve never really discovered the mother lode of the ship.”

One thing they did discover was a small shoe, a silk stocking and a small fibula or shin bone. The items had been in storage unremarked for nearly 20 years before Clifford and Kinkor recently made the connection to young John King. King’s fragmentary story is found in a deposition filed with the governor of Antigua on Nov. 30, 1716, by Abijah Savage, commander of the Antiguan sloop Bonetta. As was the usual practice, Savage reported to the governor the details of a pirate attack on his ship.

On Nov. 9, the Bonetta was attacked by Bellamy’s ship and held for 15 days. The pirates took all of their valuables, including “a Negro Man and an Indian Boy belonging to Mr. Benjamin Wicker,” before releasing them.

Savage wrote that one John King, who was sailing with his mother as a passenger from Jamaica to Antigua:

deserted his sloop, and went with the Pirates and was so far from being forced or compelled thereto by them as the deponent could perceive or learn that he declared he would Kill himself if he was restrained, and even threatened his mother who was then on Board as a Passenger with the Deponent.

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Cape Cod
Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 06/03/06
Categories: HistoryInterestingWellfleet
Keywords: history, maritime, pirates, shipwrecks, wellfleet


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