Beyond Oak Island – Return the Whydah 

January 31, 2023

Treasure hunters love to learn all about the history of the pirates and the bounty they are tracking. Sometimes the exploration takes them back to the same area to continue to search for more treasure. The underwater exploration of the Whydah is one such adventure that keeps drawing the Beyond Oak Island crew back to the shores of Cape Cod, Massachusetts once again.

The latest episode of Beyond Oak Island (season 3, episode 11) 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

This particular episode is a return to the salvage area to continue the hunt for treasure with the father/son duo Barry and Brandon Clifford who have been exploring the wreck of the Whydah for over 40 years! 

The Importance of the Whydah 

The allure of treasure hunting is often the opportunity to find artifacts that could be priceless in terms of both financial and historical value. 

The Whydah offers both as it was Captained by Sam Bellamy, who was known for running a democratic ship. That meant that with each ship he plundered and gained sailors and other pirates, he offered them a fair and equal say in what they did and earned. The crew of the pirate ship was comprised of British, French, Dutch, and (most notably) Africans who shared in this democracy. The concept of democracy between such a mixed group of pirates was unique for their time. So, not only is it possible to recover tons of treasure from this wreckage but bring awareness of the unique time capsule that the Whydah provides. 

A Return to the Whydah 

In this episode of Beyond Oak Island, Matty Blake and Tony Sampson re-join the search and excavation of the Whydah wreckage with Barry and Brandon Clifford and his team in Cape Cod, near a graveyard of sunken cannons. 

Before they head out for their next dive they reminisce on the historical importance of the Whydah and the preservation of this excavation site. 

Since the Whydah was lost to the sea on April 26, 1717, in a freak nor’easter common to the New England area, the 5 tons of treasure of gold, silver, and jewels the ship was carrying is believed to be at the bottom of the ocean under layers of cobblestone, sand, and clay. 

According to two survivors of the wreck and historical records, the ship’s bounty was being held in the cannon area of the ship and would probably be found under the tons of concretion of cannons previously explored. If the crew can locate that area once more they may have luck using the ship’s dusting equipment to gently blow away the layers of cobblestone, sand, and clay to get to the layer where the treasure may be. 

Tony Sampson and Brandon Clifford headed out on the Vast Explorer, the Clifford’s state-of-the-art salvage ship to take a few dives and explore what lay beneath. They realized that they have to take into account the wind, currents, and weather in order to have a successful and safe dive. 

Once underwater, the dive team set up what they call a “pounder,” which is a rope attached to an anchor that allows them to safely get to the bottom and mark specific points where artifacts are found. This is critically important because, in their mind, this is an archeological site as well as a treasure-hunting expedition. It is important to them to detail the coordinates and spots where they have located items, such as the spoon and Spanish coin they found during their last dive.

During this episode, the dive team was lucky enough to come up with two artifacts. One was a Mexican coin that was well preserved which means that it had not been uncovered previously or subject to corrosion. The second was a decorative side plate found on pistols common to the 1700s. These two finds were likely newly uncovered with the use of the dusting equipment and had not been seen in 300 years. These finds truly put history right into the hands of the exploration crew. 

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.