Marine archaeologist who found pirate ship to lecture in Norwich

By Claire Bessette - The Day


New England's real pirate history is coming to Otis Library on Sept. 11.

The pirate ship Whydah sank in a storm April 26, 1717, off the coast of Wellfleet on Cape Cod. In 1984, marine archaeologist Barry Clifford discovered the wreck and its wealth of gold, pirate artifacts and the namesake ship's bell.

Clifford opened a museum in Provincetown to display the artifacts and a laboratory to remove centuries of encrusted barnacles and sand from the items.

Now, the Whydah is going on a national tour, "Real Pirates," sponsored by National Geographic Society.

While Norwich is not a destination on the national tour, local officials have landed a piece of the action.

At the end of August, when Otis Library reopens after a furlough, selected items from the Whydah will be placed on display in the library lobby cases. On Sept. 11, Clifford will appear at the library for a fundraiser reception and lecture on the Whydah discovery and other shipwrecks he is now exploring, including searching for Columbus' flagship, the Santa Maria, off the coast of Haiti.

"This is an exciting program, and given the long and illustrious maritime history of southeastern Connecticut, it seems like an excellent match," Otis Library Executive Director Robert Farwell said.

Clifford's lecture will be at 7:30 p.m. at Otis. Admission is $25 per person. A wine and hors d'oeuvres reception for $55 per person will be begin at 6 p.m. at the library. For information and reservations, call Otis Library at (860) 889-2365, extension 124.

Farwell said while the topic of pirates might be enticing to youths, the lecture program is geared for adults.

Clifford is also working on a major expedition to Ile Ste. Marie off the coast of Madagascar for a Discovery Channel "Quest" initiative. Five shipwreck sites were discovered; including the Adventure Galley (flagship of the pirate William Kidd) and the Fiery Dragon, commanded by the pirate William "Billy One-Hand" Condon.



Barry Clifford Whydah Eastham Salt Pond Visitor Center pirate Black Sam Bellamy