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The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship

Real Pirates at Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Mar 17, 2011

DENVER, Col. - Pirate movie buffs will have to wait until May for the release of the latest swashbuckling Hollywood blockbuster, but pirate fans can load their treasure chests with booty right now, as they feast on Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship. The world's first exhibition of authenticated pirate artifacts, Real Pirates is on display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science through August 21, 2011. Visitors can enhance their summer visit with exclusive pirate-themed hotel deals.

Organized by National Geographic, Arts and Exhibitions International and AEG Exhibitions, Real Pirates tells the amazing story of the Whydah, a pirate ship that sank in 1717 and rested on the bottom of the ocean for nearly 300 years, only to be discovered by underwater explorer Barry Clifford in 1984. The exhibition features more than 200 artifacts recovered from the ship wreck off the coast of Cape Cod, including treasure chests of coins, jewelry, cannons and weaponry.

The exhibition brings the real story of pirates to the public as it's never been told before – through real objects last touched by real pirates. Throughout the immersive 13,000-square-foot exhibition, visitors will experience the perils and privileges of life during the "Golden Age of Piracy." Interactive activities include boarding a life-size replica of the ship's stern, hoisting the skull-and-crossbones, tying pirate knots, taking home a pirate hat, participating in a treasure hunt, and more.

Pirate Hotel Packages Offer Their Own Treasures

The Story of the Whydah, from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship

The Whydah was built in 1715 as a slave ship and after completing her maiden voyage from Africa to the Caribbean, she was seized by Sam Bellamy and turned into a pirate ship. Bellamy and his crew plundered more than 50 ships, making it one of the most successful vessels to ever sail under the black flag.

With a hold full of treasure, the Whydah was heading for Cape Cod (and legend has it, back to Sam Bellamy's true love) when it ran into a violent nor'easter. Buffeted by the storm, the ship broke apart and sank, with the treasure and all but two of the 146 pirates settling into Davy Jones' Locker, to be lost in the sands for nearly 300 years.

Who were these men and what was it like to be a pirate? Some of the stories told in the exhibition include:

Among the crew was John King, believed to be as young as eight or nine. He was traveling with his mother when their ship was captured by Sam Bellamy. King was determined to join the pirates and despite his mother's protests, Bellamy welcomed him aboard.

Another pirate was Hendrick Quintor, of African and Dutch descent. There were at least 30 seaman of African descent on board the Whydah. Black pirates were not rare in 18th century piracy – the crew of the famous pirate Blackbeard was 60 percent black. Pirate ships were among the first democracies in the world where all men had an equal vote, and for most black pirates, piracy offered the only alternative to slavery.

Still another pirate was John Julian, a 16-year-old Miskito Indian from southeastern Central America. Julian served as a pilot of the Whydah, navigating the ship out of difficult waterways or hiding the ship in secluded spots during pursuits from navy vessels.

Real Pirates at Denver Museum of Nature & Science

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