Captain Kidd’s pirate ship to become underwater museum

Captain Kidd, pirate, pirates, pirate ship
The submerged wreck of Captain Kidd’s pirate ship will become a “Living Museum of the Sea” reports Science Daily.

The Quedagh Merchant was found a couple of years ago just off the coast of the Dominican Republic. It’s only 70 feet from the shore of Catalina Island and rests in ten feet of water, so it’s a perfect destination for scuba divers or even snorkelers.

Underwater signs will guide divers around the wreck, and like in above-ground museums, there’s a strict “don’t touch the artifacts” policy. Often when shipwrecks are found the discoverers keep the location secret to protect them from looting. Hopefully this bold step of allowing visitors to swim around such an important wreck will help inform the public without any harm being done. One can only hope!

Captain Kidd is one of the most famous and most controversial of pirates. For much of his career he was a privateer, a legal pirate with permission from the King of England to loot enemy ships and hunt down other pirates. Privateers were one of the ways the big empires of the day harassed one another.

Lots of stories of his evil nature have come down to us. He was supposed to have been brutal to his crew and was even reported to have buried his Bible, as is shown in this public domain image courtesy Wikimedia Commons. He’s also supposed to have buried treasure all over the world. How much of this is true and how much is legend is still hotly debated by historians.

The Quedagh Merchant was an Armenian vessel carrying a rich treasure of gold, silver, and fine cloth that Kidd captured in 1698 off the coast of India. Although the ship was Armenian and was under the protection of the French Crown, it was captained by an Englishman. This got Kidd’s status changed from privateer to pirate and from then on he was wanted by the English authorities.

Kidd left the Quedagh Merchant in the Caribbean with a trusted crew as he sailed off on another ship to New York to clear his name, but his “trusted crew” looted the vessel and sunk it. His loss was posterity’s gain.

Kidd shouldn’t have gone to New York. He was lured to Boston by a supposed friend and then arrested and shipped to England to be put on trial for piracy. The judge found him guilty and sentenced him to hang. His body was left hanging over the River Thames in an iron cage called a gibbet as a warning to others. The museum will be dedicated on May 23, the 310th anniversary of Kidd’s execution.

[Image of Captain Kidd rotting in the gibbet courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

Gold treasure revealed

Back in September we reported on an amazing find of Anglo-Saxon gold that had been discovered in England. Now some of the treasure is on display at a free exhibit at the British Museum.

The Staffordshire Hoard dates to the 7th or 8th centuries AD, a time when England was a patchwork of small Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. The Anglo-Saxons were great warriors and storytellers and made some of the most beautiful metalwork and jewelry of the early Middle Ages.

The hoard was found by a man using a metal detector and includes more than 1,500 items such as bracelets, three gold crosses, sword fittings, and other pieces of jewelry. The hoard is valued at £3.285 million ($5.35 million).

Archaeologists noticed that all of the objects would have been used by men, and think this hoard may be booty taken during one of the period’s innumerable wars. There are a large number of sword fittings that had been torn off the weapons. These swords would then be untraceable, a bit like rubbing off the serial number on a gun. Perhaps the swords of defeated enemies had been stripped of their gold and the weapons redistributed among the victors.

You can learn more about the hoard at this website, complete with some dazzling photos.

Museum Junkie: Anglo-Saxon treasure goes on display

Prize pieces from a huge horde of Anglo-Saxon gold are on display at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

The horde, found in Staffordshire by a metal detector enthusiast, is believed to be the largest such find ever in the UK, rivaling even the famous horde of the Sutton Hoo burial ship, pictured here. The Staffordshire Horde contains 1,500 pieces of gold and silver and appears to be the treasure of a leading warrior or chief. The collection includes large amounts of male jewelry and decorated armor and experts believe it dates to the 7th century A.D., a time when England was a patchwork of warring kingdoms.

The exhibit is on until October 13, but if you can’t make it check out these amazing pictures on the horde’s official website. Many of the pieces are still undergoing conservation and study, but once that’s all done, you can expect a worldwide tour in a year or so. Watch this space.

Diving for treasure

This may sound like something straight out of a movie, but this year, a US treasure-hunting company (yes there is such a thing) found and excavated 500,000 silver coins off the coast of Spain. The trouble is Spain’s also eyeing the loot.

That’s why this week the Spanish government got together a team of experts to help plan their strategy against further looting. But the company, Odyssey Marine Exploration, it was fair game because they claim the site was in international waters. The trouble is they won’t release the site location. I guess that’s why they’re going to court next month in Tampa, of all places.

Anyways, I talked with an Odyssey spokeswoman a couple weeks ago. Though she was generally nice, and even sent me some promotional material, I was surprised at just how paranoid she was about who I was, why I was calling, and why I needed to know anything. Perhaps it just goes with treasure-hunting, after all, location is everything in this game.