You guys know I get excited about historical discoveries and that I like pirates, since I’ve written two novels about them. (Firelock follows the adventures of Anne Bonny and Jack Rackham, and Red Sky in the Morning, is full of Blackbeard’s cunning schemes.) Of course, then, when I happened to read a news article today about the discovery of a silver bar among the wreck of a ship believed to be Captain Kidd’s Adventure Galley, I was quite intrigued.
I don’t know much about Captain Kidd, since he was hanged about 17 years before either of my stories takes place. Apparently he was originally a pirate hunter, but soon became a rogue himself. When he was finally caught and sentenced to the gallows, the hangman’s rope snapped two times, before the third attempt to hang him was finally successful. Prior to his capture, the Adventure Galley sank off the coast of Madagascar, near a pirate haven called Ile Saint-Marie, shortly after he had taken loot including gold, silver, and cloths such as satin and muslin. Captain Kidd was rumoured to have hidden some of his treasure, which spawned the legend of buried pirate treasure and inspired Louis Robert Stevenson to include it in Robinson Crusoe, as well.
It’s unclear whether the silver went down with the ship or if Captain Kidd did indeed try to hide it, perhaps underwater. It seems odd that loot that sank with the ship would have been left there. Other pirates, including Charles Vane, made fortunes from pillaging Spanish treasure wrecks near Florida, and some shipwrecks like Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge, which ran aground near Beaufort Inlet, sank slowly enough that the crew had time to remove most of the valuables, of which silver would most certainly have been considered such. The sinking and loss of precious metals must have been a disaster for Captain Kidd, unless he really did try to hide the loot.
It’s a popular myth that pirates saved caches of buried treasure. Most pirates spent their money the moment they got it, and it was also somewhat rare for the plunder to be actual gold or silver. More often, they took goods such as spices and cloth, and later sold them for profit. If the merchant ship happened to be carrying liquor, they generally kept it for their own enjoyment. Blackbeard and Charles Vane once notably had three-day long drinking-fest on the beach at Ocracoke.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do the same…No, not really! I don’t have the liver stamina for that, or the desire to. But I do have a three day weekend coming up, and while I have a villain speech to finish writing, I will also be taking some time off and meeting my new niece! Have a great week everyone.