Gold Coins

Beyond Oak Island – A Recap of Captain Bellamy’s Bounty

January 10, 2023

The latest episode of Beyond Oak Island (season 3, episode 8) on the History Channel follows a story close to our hearts here at the Real Pirate Museum – the salvaging of Captain Black Sam Bellamy’s ship – the Whydah off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. 

Beyond Oak Island digs deep into the many treasure-hunting quests of Rick Lagina, Tony Sampson, and Matty Blake across the globe, revealing amazing new details and clues from past searches for treasure. This episode in particular, “Captain Bellamy’s Bounty,” tells the story of Barry and Brandon Clifford, a father-son team who obtained the exclusive salvage rights to the wreckage of the Whydah that was discovered in the waters off Cape Cod in Orleans, Massachusetts. 

Who Was Captain Sam Bellamy? 

Known as the “Prince of Pirates” and the “Robinhood of the Seas,” Captain Black Sam Bellamy sought his fortune on the seas as he captured over 50 ships during his buccaneering days before his demise aboard the slave ship the Whydah which went down in a Nor’easter along the New England coast in 1717. 

Captain Bellamy was known for emancipating slaves on the ships he captured and giving equal shares and treatment to the men whose ships he seized. During his pirating years, he was known to have amassed a wealth of gold, silver, jewels, and priceless valuables from the ships he overpowered. 

Historians and archeologists believe that there were at least 5 tons of valuables on board the Whydah when it capsized and sank off the coast of Cape Cod on April 26th, 1717. 


Salvaging the Whydah – A Family Affair 

Father and son duo, Barry and Brandon Clifford, professional underwater explorers, obtained the exclusive salvage rights to the wreckage of the Whydah after it was discovered on the coast of Massachusetts in 1985. 

During their nearly 40 years of exploring for treasure, they have found over 100,000 artifacts said to be estimated worth $400 million by the Wall Street Journal. To their credit, they have kept all the artifacts intact and together and have used their findings for educational purposes and public viewing in three museums. 

From coins to gold bars and from the galley bell to numerous cannons, the explorers have preserved each item with the guidance of archeologists and historians alike. Items can be viewed in their natural state in the Whydah Pirate Museum located in Yarmouth, Massachusetts or at Real Pirates in Salem, Massachusetts.

Beneath the Waters – Diving for Treasure 

The dive and exploration team at Beyond Oak Island was able to get in on the treasure hunting when the Cliffords took them by boat to the site of the shipwreck. 

Currently, the team of divers are looking for the stern of the ship where they believe Captain Bellamy’s quarters were located, and possibly a treasure trove of artifacts will be found. 

The technique Brandon Clifford and his father use while salvaging is a grid system where they use high-frequency sound pulses off the ocean floor to produce an image of the bottom to search for unnatural features or those that could be man-made. They use a process called “lawnmowing“ where they use the sonar on the boat and go back and forth over an area like a lawnmower over the grass until they find an area of interest. 

During their dive, they are met with unfavorably low visibility at only 2-3 feet where seaweed and mung obscure their diving view. They do, however, find a large section of timber covered in mussel growth in something they refer to as concretion. They also explore a second location using a metal detector and return to the surface with both a spoon and a well-preserved coin later found to be a Spanish coin often found on pirate ships during this era. 

To watch the full episode visit the History Channel and the show Beyond Oak Island. You too may catch the treasure-hunting bug that has been a part of the folklore of the sinking of the pirate ships of the past.