Aggie alum discovers authentic pirate treasure, delivers presentation on campus

Barry Clifford, an explorer, was invited to speak at Homecoming Week by Associated Students of Utah State University. He spoke Sept. 22 in the TSC Ballroom. He’s an underwater explorer who works with National Geographic. He is the only explorer to have discovered legitimate pirate treasure to date.Clifford and his team haven’t sold any of their findings. They’ve kept everything together and it is now in touring exhibits, which are booked for the next seven years. Clifford said the money from the exhibits funds all of their current projects including his most recent discovery, the Margaret.The Margaret was found by Clifford’s team off the coast of Salem, Mass. This ship is especially important because it was considered the lead ship of the U.S. Navy in 1797. In a letter to her husband, Abigail Adams wrote about losing friends in the shipwreck who were traveling from Amsterdam to America.Clifford’s most notable discovery, however, is the Whydah, a pirate ship that he discovered in 1984. He explained that according to local legend Sam Bellamy captained the ship. In Clifford’s favorite version of the tale, Sam met his girlfriend, Maria Hallett, under a blooming apple tree. He promised to return from trading in the Caribbean with a handsome dowry with which to wed her. In the meantime, she had his illegitimate child. She tried to hide the pregnancy by hiding the baby in a barn. However, the baby died and Maria was tried and convicted as a witch. She was run out of town and lived in a shack some miles away with a gray cat and a billy goat with a glass eye.Sam didn’t have much luck in the Caribbean and soon turned to piracy. He captured 54 ships, but his greatest achievement came with the capture of the slaving vessell, Whydah, in 1717. The ship had just dropped off a massive cargo of African slaves in exchange for more than four-and-half tons of gold, gold dust, jewelry and other treasures. With his large bounty, Sam sailed the ship to Massachusetts where it was hit by a violent storm and sunk. Most of the 146 crew members washed ashore, including Bellamy. Maria found Bellamy’s body while walking the beach. She consequently went mad and haunts the beach.Using the local folklore of eight survivors of the shipwreck Clifford found the court documents of their trial. Six of the eight were convicted and hung after telling of the massive bounty aboard the ship which was in bags, in chests between decks.

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