Yellow Brick Road That Leads to Pirate Treasure

Painting of Whydah Ship and Crew
Painting of Whydah Ship and Crew

Along Cape Cod’s shifting seafloor, expolorer Barry Clifford has found a path to pirate booty, that he’s termed the “Yellow Brick Road.” It is a path sprinkled with gold dust and artifacts that Clifford believes leads to the pirate ship Whydah’s undiscovered treasure.

It’s the kind of underwater adventure that movies are made of…pirate booty, mystery, and untold riches. The Whydah ship is the only authenticated pirate ship wreck in the waters of the United States.

It sank in 1717 after a tumultuous storm and it astonishingly contained plunder from 50 ships under the command of “Black Sam” Bellamy. In 1984, Clifford and his team discovered the site of the wreck off of Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

Since then, Clifford has found around 200,000 artifacts such as 10,000+ coins, 400 pieces of Akan jewelry, sixty cannon, sword handles, and a boy’s artificial leg. He also found colonial-era documents that states the Whydah was able to raid two more ships that contained a total of 400,000 coins before it sank.

“We think we’re very, very close,” Clifford told ABS News. From September 11-13, he and his seven-man team took their last trip of the season to the “Yellow Brick Road”. This path is 700 feet long between two of the Whydah’s most important wreck locations as the ship was torn apart during its submersion.

The waters of the area of the wreck are said to be “black water” or “zero-visibility”, but divers were still able to pull up several rocky masses that contain gold and silver. They had to swim through many feet of mung seaweed that feels like black jello.

Jon Matel, a diver states, “You’re going by your feel, your touch, your hands, and the ping of a metal detector…when that thing goes off, it’s a great feeling.”

X-Rays of the rocky masses have shown that they contain coins and gold inside. Clifford sees this as more evidence that the ship’s extraordinary treasure was dumped in the area of the “Yellow Brick Road.”

Barry Clifford of Whydah Expedition
Barry Clifford of Whydah Expedition

On his last trip, they found 11 coins with a canonball and 50 coins stacked on a one and half foot piece of iron. He believes there are thousands more coins that can be found in the area.

This summer, he and his team made 21 trips that have a cumulative cost of $200,000+. They had to stop for this year due to changing weather conditions such as lightning strikes, but they are excited to go back on June 2014.

Clifford wants to first gather everything he can at the Whydah wreck site before selling any of his discovered treasure. Even though the artifacts have significant value, there is still so much to be discovered.

He will continue to look for more information and clues regarding the Whydah wreck. He says, “I’ll wake up in the middle of the night this winter and go, ‘Oh my God, I know what that means’ when I’m reviewing something from the Whydah, and then I can hardly wait to get back there in the spring.”

Clifford’s recent finds illustrates what success could be attained through thorough historical and scientific research. He states that “our project has completely revised the world’s understanding of pirates.”

In 1996, he established the Expedition Whydah Sea-Lab & Learning Center at the Whydah Pirate Museum in Provincetown, MA. In 2007, under National Geographic Society’s sponsorship, some of the Whydah artifacts were used for a U.S. nation-wide traveling exhibition called Real Pirates.

Other exciting pirate exploration projects his team is involved besides the “Yellow Brick Road” in are in Haiti and Madagascar.

For more information on the Whydah expedition, click here.


Written by: Chelo Aestrid

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