A museum featuring what’s said to be the world’s only authenticated pirate coins, pistols, swords, and other artifacts, pulled from a ship that sank off Wellfleet in 1717, is opening in West Yarmouth this month.
The Whydah Pirate Museum, which is being billed as a 12,000-square-foot “treasure trove” that includes a life-size replica of the ship Whydah that can be explored, will welcome people aboard on June 25.
“There’s nothing like this to compare it to,” said Barry Clifford, who in 1984, alongside his diving team, discovered the Whydah Gally’s remains off Cape Cod. It became the first pirate ship whose identity was verified.
The Whydah was launched by the Royal Africa Company to carry slaves from West Africa, according to a New York Times article published in 1985, a year after the ship’s discovery.
The ship was later commandeered by pirate captain Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy in 1717, in the Caribbean, and then brought to Massachusetts, where Bellamy’s girlfriend, Maria Hallett, had been accused of witchcraft, Clifford said.
At the time it went down, there was 53 ships’ worth of plundered goods aboard, he said. Only two of the 146 men aboard survived the wreck.
The collection of artifacts from the ship that will be displayed in the museum has been traveling the United States for the last decade as part of an exhibit produced by National Geographic, Clifford said.
The exhibit will find a permanent home in West Yarmouth and incorporate never-before-seen materials plucked during Clifford’s explorations of the Whydah. There will also be a laboratory where people can watch archaeologists excavate artifacts embedded in concretions — masses of material found at the bottom of the ocean at the site of the wreck.
“It’s a comprehensive exhibit,” Clifford said of the display, which also includes cannons, cannonballs, navigation instruments, and ship riggings. “People who have already seen it are all extremely excited.”