“Real Pirates” Can Be Found in Grand Rapids
Sunday, January 25, 2015

 

Real Pirates exhibit, photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
 
Belay your carousing’ and make your way down to the Grand Rapids Museum (GRUM) to see the fascinating exhibit,  Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship.  
 
A compelling exhibition of the story of Whydah, the first authenticated pirate shipwreck in U.S. waters off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts premiered in October of 2014.
 
The exhibition features real stories of the people who populated the Atlantic world in the age of slavery and piracy: artisans and traders from West Africa, slave ship captains and their captives, Native American boat pilots, impoverished sailors from all over Europe, and pirates—including women pirates and John King, a boy no more than 11 years old, who "went on the account." 
 
The one-of-a-kind exhibition features more than 200 authentic items recovered from the Whydah – real treasure last touched by real pirates. Ranging from canons to coins, the ship’s massive bell and personal items that the pirates wore, visitors are given an unprecedented glimpse into unique economic, political and social circumstances of the early 18th-century Caribbean. The slave ship Whydah began her short life in London, England, in 1715.  Sunk in a fierce storm off Cape Cod in April 1717, the Whydah was located almost 300 years later in 1984.   Underwater explorer Barry Clifford and his team unearthed the authentic pirate treasure. The wreck site is still actively excavated today lead by Chris Macort, Director of Operations in recovering artifacts.
 
 Kids also learn about the exciting world of nautical archaeology and the many technologies that have been developed to allow scientists and historians to unlock the clues embedded in these 300-year-old "treasures." 
 
Visitors return to a time when the cities of North America were still small towns with few interconnections. It was the Caribbean, with its enormous sugar plantations, that made up the dynamic center, drawing vast quantities of money, goods, and people from all corners of the Atlantic. Some people came by choice. But most were transported to this world against their will: men, women, and children from across Africa who were kidnapped and sold to slavers; Native Americans bound into slavery from colonial North America; South American natives enslaved in Spanish mines; and indentured servants shipped from Europe. 
 
The Whydah was built and launched as a slave ship and captured on her maiden voyage across the Atlantic by legendary pirate Sam Bellamy and his crew. After a few alterations and a quick hoist of the Jolly Roger, the Whydah became the flagship of Bellamy’s flotilla, leading raids throughout Caribbean waters and up the Atlantic coastline.he Whydah was built and launched as a slave ship and captured on her maiden voyage across the Atlantic by legendary pirate Sam Bellamy and his crew. After a few alterations and a quick hoist of the Jolly Roger, the Whydah became the flagship of Bellamy’s flotilla, leading raids throughout Caribbean waters and up the Atlantic coastline.
 
To purchase tickets or for more information, visit www.GRUM.org. The fee includes admission to the exhibition and to the Grand Rapids Public Museum – adults $17, seniors -$16, children (3 to 17) - $12, children 2 and under are free. Member fees are: adults $12, senior - $11, member child (3-17) - $10, children 2 and under are free.
 
Source: National Geographic and the Grand Rapids Public Museum
 
This article was printed in the January 25, 2015 - February 7, 2015 edition.
 

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