Whydah Pirate Museum


Whydah Pirate Museum

By Patricia L. O’Connell

Whydah Pirate Museum Cape Cod
Ship model at the Whydah Pirate Museum in West Yarmouth, Massachusetts, USA.

The Whydah Pirate Museum is located in West Yarmouth, on Cape Cod. The museum is about an hour’s drive from the Palmer House Inn and is a new, fully interactive Pirate Museum filled with real pirate artifacts and treasure from the pirate Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy’s flagship the Whydah.

Originally constructed as a fully rigged galley passenger, cargo and slave ship, this three-masted 110 foot long ship, embarked on her maiden voyage out of the port of London, England in 1716. She sailed what was called the triangle trade route. When she left London on the first leg of the triangle, she was carrying a variety of goods from different business to exchange for delivery of trade and slaves in Western Africa, in what is known today as Senegal, Nigeria and Benin. She left west Africa on the second leg of her voyage with about 500 captives, gold, including jewelry and ivory. She traveled to the Caribbean where the captives were sold or traded for precious metals, sugar, indigo, rum, logwood, pimento, ginger and medical ingredients. The third leg of the voyage was to deliver the goods to London. The Whydah, however, would never return to England for a second voyage.

The ship was captured by pirate Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy of the pirate ship Sultana in February of 1717. After taking over the ship, Bellamy and his crew ripped through the Caribbean, pirating over 50 ships and loading the Whydah with stolen treasures. Bellamy and the Whydah then set sail for New England with other ships that he had captured.

Whydah Pirate Museum exhibit
Pirate exhibit.

Samuel Bellamy was known as “Black Sam” because of his black hair. He was born in England but moved to New England where he met and fell in love with Maria Hallett of Eastham, MA on Cape Cod. Her father refused her hand in marriage because Bellamy was poor. He decided to turn to piracy to remedy that situation.

During the voyage north the Whydah was heavily damaged in a storm. The damage included a broken mast. The crew was able to do makeshift repairs that enabled them to each Nantucket Sound. It is believed that the repairs were completed in either Block Island or Rhode Island. Two months later Bellamy and his fleet headed north toward the elbow of Cape Cod. On April 25, 1717 they captured the ship “Mary Anne”. She was carrying a cargo of Madeira wine.

Just after midnight on April 26, 1717 the two ships were struck by hurricane force winds and 30 to 40 foot waves. She ran bow first into a sandbar 500 feet from what is now known as Marconi Beach in the town of Wellfleet. She then capsized sending 4.5 short tons of gold and silver, 60 cannons and 144 people to the ocean’s floor. The Whydah’s contents was spread over  a 4 square mile area. All but 2 sailors were killed. The Mary Anne also sank in that storm.

After the wreck was reported to the governor of Massachusetts, Samuel Shute, he sent Captain Cypian Southack, a local salvager and cartographer, to recover the bullion. However, when Southack arrived on the scene in May, all that he found was that some of the ship was still visible below the water’s surface. At that time Southack created a map of the site.

The wreckage and treasure would remain buried for close to 300 years. Fascinated by the stories of the Whydah since childhood, Provincetown native Barry Clifford decided to look for the ship’s wreckage. He began his search in 1983. In 1984, Clifford, with the help of Southack’s map, began to find the first artifacts from the Whydah just 500 feet offshore. It wasn’t until 1985, however, that authentication of the treasure would be proven, when Clifford unearthed the Whydah’s bell that is inscribed with the name. Also, in 2013 a small placard was found that had the ship’s name and was inscribed with her maiden voyage date.

The Whydah Pirate Museum features replicas of the ship. All of the artifacts discovered so far are on display for viewing. Visitors are also able to learn about the excavation process and the technology used to restore and preserve, these one of a kind, treasures. Interactive and wonderfully unique, the Whydah Pirate Museum is a must visit.

Ship’s anchor.

Whydah Pirate Museum
674 MA-28
West Yarmouth, MA

More Museums on Cape Cod


Cape Cod's Stowe Room, A
Harriet Beecher Stowe room
Cape Cod's Emily Dickinson Room Five
Cape Cod’s Emily Dickinson Room Five

While all of our guestrooms have their own charm suitable for relaxation after the most wonderful day of visiting museums on Cape Cod, we recommend the Harriet Beecher Stowe room, the Theodore Roosevelt room or the Emily Dickinson room. These rooms feature comfortable king beds, fireplaces, jacuzzi-style tubs and a relaxing stay before and after your day.

Historic Cape Cod: Victorian Age in Falmouth

Historic Cape Cod: Victorian blouse

This charming exhibit on historic Cape Cod is at Falmouth’s Museums on the Green will be running through October 11th. It is located in the 1730 Conant House at 65 Palmer Avenue, just 2 door away from the Palmer House Inn.

Historic Cape Cod: Victorian  blouse
Historic Cape Cod: Victorian blouse embellished with beads.
Antique Victorian Dress
Antique Victorian Dress

Two of the values that people of the Victorian era held dear were respectability and propriety. The rules of behavior and dress were strictly enforced by society. Getting dressed in the late nineteenth century had its own strict ritual. The care with which middle and upper class women dressed is an indication of how much importance was placed on one’s appearance. The fashion of the day was in an intricately coded language, as I guess it always has been and will continue to be. Fabrics, jewelry, embellishments and styles would indicate a persons social standing, economic situation and intellectual leanings. Victorian woman delighted in taking a bit of fabric and adding lace, beading or ruffling.

Historic Cape Cod: Victorian Swimwear
Historic Cape Cod swimwear, Victorian style

Most of the clothing in the exhibit are the fancier items that were saved and cared for, in other words their Sunday best. Sailing captains’ wives and other well-to-do Falmouth residents were known to dress formally. While the working class Falmouth residents such as the fishermen, crafts people and farmers’ clothing was not preserved. In those days of home weaving and hand sewing, people used their clothing until it wore out, at which time it was probably turned into rags. Woolen items were cut into strips and braided to make rugs.  Other fabrics were sewn into quilts. The items in the exhibit, show the clothing that people cherished and saved.

For women at the turn of the twentieth century, getting dressed was a lengthy process. It was not unusual for a woman to wear fifteen pounds of undergarments alone. They were put on layer upon layer. The clothing was uncomfortable, hot and confining. There is one photo at the exhibit that shows two women in a canoe. They are wearing wide-brimmed hats, full length belted skirts, high neck blouses with ties and long buttoned sleeves. It does not show their feet but if they were wearing button-up shoes like the ones in the nearby case, they would have been goners if the canoe had capsized.

Historic Cape Cod: Spritsail Sailboat
Spritsail Sailboat

There is another photo of a spritsail sailboat. This is a rig design that is unique to Falmouth and Eel Pond in the Woods Hole section of town. The boat was designed with the mast located in the bow, with one large sail. As the boat approached the fixed bridge, the crew would step the mast. Which means that it is lifted from its mount and placed horizontally in the boat. The boat passed under the bridge and the crew would put the mast back into place. When a draw bridge was built over the inlet to Eel Pond this type of boat was no longer needed. However, upon occasion a spritsail can be seen in Falmouth waters.

Victorian Parlor Games
Victorian Parlor Games

During the late nineteenth century, Cape Cod was in transition. For generations whaling and fishing had been the primary source of income. When the fisheries collapsed and whaling became no longer profitable, people started leaving the area in order to find work. At that same time, wealthy Bostonians and New Yorkers started coming to the area to vacation. They liked the fresh air and the beautiful beaches. The resorts and hotels soon followed. During the early part of the twentieth century, the rail lines arrived and brought more tourists. Thus the Victorian Age came to Falmouth.

Victorian Hats
Victorian Hats

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Falmouth Museums on the Green

1730 Conant House
65 Palmer Avenue
Falmouth, MA 02540

Falmouth Museums on the Green are located in the Historic District and just a few steps from the Palmer House Inn.

Cape Cod's Stowe Room, A
Harriet Beecher Stowe room
Cape Cod's Roosevelt Room, B
Cape Cod’s Roosevelt Room, B

While all of our rooms have their own individual charm with beautiful antiques and historic Cape Cod items, we recommend the Harriet Beecher Stowe room, the Theodore Roosevelt room or the Emily Dickinson room. These rooms feature comfortable king beds, fireplaces, jacuzzi-style tubs and a relaxing stay before and after your day.

Cape Cod B&B Donates to the Woods Hole Historical Museum

The Palmer House Inn of Cape Cod will donate 10% of that weekends proceeds  to the museum.


Woods Hole Historical Museum
Woods Hole Historical Museum

The Woods Hole Historical Museum presets its eighth biennial model boat show on April 16 – 17, 2011 (tickets $). The exhibits will be located in several buildings in the village of Woods Hole on Cape Cod. In the past the show attracted over six hundred visitors. For more information: www.woodsholemuseum.org


On that weekend, The Palmer House Inn will be donating 10% of the proceeds to the museum.

To make reservations: www.palmerhouseinn.com or call (508) 548 – 1230.