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October 16, 2009
Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship
November 21, 2009 – April 4, 2010
“This is a story of the making of America - a true story more powerful than fiction.” – Jeffrey Bolster, University of New Hampshire professor of early American and Caribbean history
The classical age of piracy will come to life in Norfolk when Nauticus welcomes Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship on November 21, 2009. The 8,400-square-foot interactive exhibition showcases more than 200 artifacts including everyday objects, personal items, and treasure from the first fully authenticated pirate ship ever to be discovered in U.S. waters. Real Pirates, a touring exhibition, is organized by National Geographic and Arts and Exhibitions International (AEI).
Real Pirates tells the true story of the Whydah – a pirate ship that sank off the coast of Cape Cod nearly 300 years ago. The exhibition features treasure chests of gold coins and jewelry, as well as technically advanced weaponry of the time – 18th century cannon, pistols, and swords. These artifacts were painstakingly recovered from the ocean floor over the last 25 years and form the core of this exhibition.
Visitors will be provided with an unprecedented glimpse into the unique economic, political and social circumstances of life in the early 18th century. Highlighted throughout the exhibition are compelling true stories of the diverse people whose lives converged on the Whydah before its demise. Multimedia galleries showcase this period of history, including the slave trade based in West Africa and the economic prosperity in the Caribbean. Visitors can get a sense of everyday life aboard the Whydah pirate ship, and meet Captain Sam Bellamy, one of the boldest and most successful pirates of his day. They continue on the journey with Bellamy as he sails, looting dozens of ships before a violent storm sank the vessel off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, April 26, 1717.
In this exhibition, visitors can hoist a pirate flag, tie pirate knots, and enter the ship as the pirates did, by ducking through a large wooden door and going “below deck” of the Whydah in a life-size replica of the ship’s stern.
Real Pirates personally relates to visitors by sharing the stories of four members of the Whydah crew — people who ended up on the same pirate ship for very different reasons — such as John King, the youngest-known pirate on board the Whydah, who was believed to be younger than 11 years old at the time of the shipwreck. King’s piracy began when the ship he was traveling on with his mother was captured by Captain Bellamy and he joined the pirate crew despite his mother’s objections.
In 1984 (267 years after the Whydah sank), the ship was discovered by underwater explorer Barry Clifford after years of searching. After more than two decades, Clifford is still actively excavating the wreck site and continues to bring gold and silver to the surface as well as everyday items that shed light on this tumultuous period of American and world history. At the end of the exhibition, visitors will see first-hand how Clifford discovered the ship and can delve deeper into the extensive recovery and conservation process.
As an adjunct exhibit to Real Pirates, Nauticus, and the Hampton Roads Naval Museum have created an additional exhibit which examines piracy today. The centerpiece of Piracy Today: Terror on the High Seas will be the actual MAERSK lifeboat from which Navy personnel rescued Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates in April, 2009. The exhibit also features graphics and videos that detail the efforts of NOAA, the Navy and the Coast Guard to protect our ships and marine resources from harm on the high seas.
For more information call 757-664-1000 or visit www.nauticus.org