The exciting true story of the captaincy, wreck, and discovery of the Whydah — the only pirate ship ever found — and the incredible mysteries it revealed.
The 1650s to the 1730s marked the golden age of piracy, when fearsome pirates like Blackbeard ruled the waves, seeking not only treasure but also large and fast ships to carry it. The Whydah was just such a ship, built to ply the Triangular Trade route, which it did until one of the greediest pirates of all, Black Sam Bellamy, commandeered it. Filling the ship to capacity with treasure, Bellamy hoped to retire with his bounty — but in 1717 the ship sank in a storm off Cape Cod. For more than two hundred years, the wreck of the Whydah (and the riches that went down with it) eluded treasure seekers, until the ship was finally found in 1984 by marine archaeologists. The artifacts brought up from the ocean floor are priceless, both in value and in the picture they reveal of life in that much-mythologized era, changing much of what we know about pirates.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Harsh realities of slavery and the slave trade; Murder
Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 6-9. In December 1716, pirates led by Sam Bellamy captured the Whydah, a large, fast, and heavily armed slave ship. Loaded with treasure, it was a rich prize. Four months later, it sank in a storm off Cape Cod. In the 1980s, a team searching for the Whydah located the wreck on the ocean floor and began bringing the ship’s bell, cannons, gold bars, coins, and other artifacts to the surface. Just as intriguing as the ship’s story is Sandler’s description of the causes and practices of piracy. While acknowledging that pirates deserve their reputation for barbarous cruelty, he praises their spirit of democracy, noting that their captains were elected and all crew members, regardless of race or ethnicity, had an equal vote in decisions. The black-and-white illustrations include archival prints, maps, and documents as well as photos of the excavation process and the objects recovered. Though the text branches into side issues at times, Sandler’s broad research and his evident fascination with the subject result in a multifaceted story that many readers will find rewarding.
Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2017)
Sandler tells the exciting true story of the only wrecked pirate ship ever found and the mysteries it revealed. Commissioned in 1715 in London and christened the Whydah after the West African slave-trading kingdom of Ouidah, the vessel was a galley ship configured as a heavily armed trading and transport ship for the Atlantic slave trade. In February 1717, the Whydah was attacked by pirates under the command of “Black Sam” Bellamy, who made the vessel his flagship. Bellamy and his newly captured ship menaced the coastlines of Colonial America until it was wrecked two months after capture in a nor’easter along the shoals of Cape Cod. The treasure-laden wreck was found in 1984 by marine archaeologists, and Sandler explains that 30 years of expeditions have “resulted in the discovery and retrieval of thousands of artifacts that increase our knowledge of the Whydah’s history and dramatically alter our perception of pirates and their way of life.” Sandler offers an insightful look at how different the realities of pirate life were compared to how it has been mythologized in popular culture. Instead of finding eye patches, wooden legs, rum bottles, and parrot remains, archaeologists discovered artifacts such as medical syringes, surprising for “an age when medical knowledge and practice were primitive at best.” A fascinating, vivid look at what one shipwreck reveals about the realities of the “Golden Age of Piracy.” (maps, photos, source notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)
About the Author
Martin W. Sandler has written more than seventy books for children and adults and has written and produced seven television series. He has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and has won multiple Emmy Awards. He lives in Massachusetts.
National Geographic Video:
The Whydah Lesson Plan
Around the Web
The Whydah on Amazon
The Whydah on Goodreads
The Whydah on JLG
The Whydah Publisher Page