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San Diego Museum Hosts Only Documented Pirate Treasure Ever Discovered

February 12, 2014 2:13 p.m.


Barry Clifford, Underwater Explorer

Susan Loveall, Vice President, San Diego Natural History Museum

Related Story: San Diego Museum Hosts Only Documented Pirate Treasure Ever Discovered


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. that is not all publishers and parents, a treasure chest of old tiny pirate artifacts is now on display at the San Diego national history Museum and Tom Fudge introduces us to the exhibit called real pirates.


TOM FUDGE: As a young boy in Massachusetts, Gary Clifford heard stories of a pirate ship that wrecked off the coast of Cape Cod in a storm in 1717. He dreamed of one day finding its treasure in imagining what he would do with all that Gold cup it took until 1984 but he actually did it, underwater explorer. Clifford is credited with finding that should break the deal be documented pirate treasure ever felt, the consisted over 200,000 artifacts including more than 10,000 coins gold jewelry and sixty cannons, so those artifacts are part of the new exhibit called real pirates on display at the San Diego easy look natural history, I'm joined now by an underwater explorer. Clifford and very, thank you for coming in. Also joined me as Susan love all of which is vice president of the national history Museum in Balboa Park and thank you a lot. Barry, tell us the story of the pirate ship called the Whydah.

BARRY CLIFFORD: It was a slave ship and it had a shipment of slaves in Jamaica and it was coming back to England to the windward passage it was captured by pirates.

TOM FUDGE: As I mentioned the fascination with this patient started for you at a young age But as you go into the more? How did you hear the stories?

BARRY CLIFFORD: As a boy growing up I heard stories from my uncle Bill and he was a fisherman and my cousins and I would center of the fish house and wait for them to come back, and he and my uncle's and all of these are all gone now but they were World War II vets sitting around the fish of telling stories The one of the great stories I was looking here is about this pirate that right the ship on the backside of the Cape Cod in the place called the graveyard and the pirate as legend had it was coming back to rendezvous with his girlfriend Maria Clinton condemned as a witch, and when Bellamy had met her a few years before he promised that he would come back someday after going to the Caribbean and salvaging shipwrights shipwrecks from the 1715 Spanish treasure fleet that wrecked But they decided not only to turn pirate and came back to one of you with Maria she had no idea that he had a pirate and he had no ideation been combat condemned as a witch.

TOM FUDGE: Did this actually happened was this of local lore?

BARRY CLIFFORD: Again this story was a story that every Cape Cod are heard as a boy, or as a girl, and then I started finding as an evidence, I found a map at the Harvard library and an upset pirate ship with Iraq where I carried 102 men drowned in the next am that showing the location of where the ship shipwrights And the Lord there will also three letters by the man who drew the map and he also kept the ship's journal, and I found that So with all of these solid primary source documents I realized that there is something going on here that is real,

TOM FUDGE: By the by the way we're calling it the Whydah That is what people said. That is the newly England accent. But it's the Whydah.

BARRY CLIFFORD: Now it's pronounced with a and it is named after a slave point in South Africa to do so this is a similar takeover by pirates how did it end up in Massachusetts?

BARRY CLIFFORD: Was a brand-new ship and taking a pirates capture the ship and decided to keep it for themselves and headed for Massachusetts, there's a great irony here, the fact that a third of the Whydah crew were of African origin, had most of the world for slaves live with Native American and they were experimenting with democracy and board the Whydah and every man had a vote in a share in the treasure, and they are doing this on the ship that had a license to sell and buy people, and when I first started to investigate this is a former schoolteacher I originally started thinking, I look for treasure and when I started to realize what we had really found was an incredible time capsule with this history that really nobody understood, I'd ever seen Africans in any of the Flynn movies one kid move growing up and a third of the Pirates in the piracy were about coercion, most of it were for slaves,

TOM FUDGE: And ended up off the coast of the assist Massachusetts because of a big storm?

BARRY CLIFFORD: He is coming back to quantity with his girlfriend as the story says and he was wrecked in this shipwrecks, and we talk about which is also crazy until I learned that Salem witchcraft trials represented a few of the a few of the Pirates on board, then the witch thing became, he can make this up.

TOM FUDGE: Maybe you can make this up, how did you locate this. Right? Bishopric? This should black

BARRY CLIFFORD: The feminist agitation for the house where the ship had wrecked and we went there in the fall of 1982 and John Doe down and came up and said there's nothing but sand, we had come over from Martha's Vineyard had he been working in the Vineyard for me for a while, and we realize in order to find the ship we had to dig down food through the shed said through the set

TOM FUDGE: In so seated there? Would you do with gold?

BARRY CLIFFORD: We never sold any of it, it's been Together as a collection and we have thousands and thousands of artifacts in our laboratory in our library there so going through conservation and we just discovered a document last year, the primary source document that indicated that we're another 400,000 coins on board the ship.

TOM FUDGE: Susan tells a little bit about the exhibit called real pirates.

SUSAN LOVEALL: We are delighted to come here to thrilled to have this exhibition that Barry created with this company. Where that allows all of us to get a little bit of information that Barry has spent a lifetime amassing this exhibition is open out and it runs through Labor Day's and it walks you through the life of a sailor and it walks you through the process that really went through to bring this stuff up and it's really for all ages their hands-on activities for kids to tie knots and it really is an exhibition this putting a unique perspective into what very has been a lifetime discovering.


TOM FUDGE:Ö Must be curious about the Whydah, but for the Whydah will be at the exhibition? See for at the at exhibition arose over 200 artifacts that Barry has put up for the wreck, there is a defining piece from the wreck which I think is Woodberry found that height indicated a, the first authenticated by ship pirate ship and the ever, we do it is the way to and we noticed part of the exhibition that you guys will see and you'll get to see these cannons and grenades, I found it fascinating that Pirates had grenades, it's all the exhibition. Get involved, guns, a treasure chest, with pieces of eights, and there's a gorgeous piece of concretion that is at the end of the exhibition which shows with all of this stuff looks like Woodberry has brought it up from the ocean for digging it from the mud.

TOM FUDGE: That me remind folks that I'm speaking with stupid Susan love all the vice president the natural history Museum and also underwater explorer Barry Chris Clifford and we're talking about piracy shipwrecks in a new exhibition at the national history Museum called real pirates copy or you wanted that something to that?

BARRY CLIFFORD: People should realize when they come here that this is the only pirate treasure that is ever been discovered, very much like coming to see the only Renaissance racks, people get to fuse with super Stanford about, anybody who is ever walk to beach and thought about finding pirate treasure, this is it. We also have the oldest collection of African jewelry ever discovered, we also have the oldest free Mason symbols predating the start of official mission Freemasonry because several of the Pirates were actually Freemasons.

TOM FUDGE: This is not all from the shipwreck?

BARRY CLIFFORD: It's all from the Whydah.

TOM FUDGE: When you discovered this was it a challenge getting it to the surface?

BARRY CLIFFORD: We're still doing it, the fact that the route fifty-six different ships, we had this unprecedented collection of cross-cultural material from fifty-six different ships and not just the artifacts from one ship, but the treasures and artifacts from fifty-six ships including these incredible icon pieces of gold jewelry and I don't know if they covered this in the LA times when we discovered that one of the Pirates was a ten-year-old boy named Scott John King and we had his leg bone and issue at a stocking and that is on display as well, and King threatened his mother and joined the pirate crew went the ship was captured off of Jamaica, so John King his remains are the exhibit.

TOM FUDGE: How did you learn all of these things about these people who are on the pirate ship? Were there document stating for the time talked about these people?

BARRY CLIFFORD: I have a brilliant historian who worked with me who just passed away last year But the captain of the bony to which was the ship that John King was on wrote a letter to the governor of Jamaica complaining about this very rebellious young boys who threaten his mother and joined the pirate crew, and that was a letter written by a captain of the ship to the governor of Jamaica and we have copy of that letter and when we found the shoe, the size 6 shoe which is on display along with a silk stocking, and had to have been John King and we had them all tested and found they were from a young boy.

TOM FUDGE: If I find their treasure and go diving and I find something is a block to me? Is that what the losses? What the law says?

BARRY CLIFFORD: Massachusetts charged us that we disagreed with them and took them to court and wide and they appealed and we won again, and 100% of the ship came to us and under Massachusetts law we would've had to have sold the treasure and give it Massachusetts a third of the money, but rather we have kept the entire collection together and we've never sold any of it.

TOM FUDGE: Work in the knowledge of Pirates telephone history?

SUSAN LOVEALL: Interestingly one of the interesting things that we have learned in our museums that Pirates had a very strong connection to natural history, and they were some of the individuals were able to travel to many parts of the world where a lot of people cannot go and then we have a local component that we have liberty with at UCSD America featuring some of their books by a general it gentlemen named Dan Pierre would actually use as a resource, and these are really interesting individuals and as you start learning more about Pirates of the depth and how they intertwine within culture or even the Northeast or even in the World Cup had a really substantial impact on the world and is really a fascinating story.

TOM FUDGE: Those who follow that if they do that pirating is common on the coast of Somalia and in Southeast Asia, are those Pirates part of this exhibition?

SUSAN LOVEALL: Know what we take that piracy very seriously one of our public programs of featuring the Navy captain who was on the boat that rescued Captain Phillips recently and were not looking at a modern-day pirates we're these are pirates that lived in the seventeenth century and piled the seas and traveled, I think Dan peer traveled many times around the world and many of the parts of the dictionary our tribute to him.

BARRY CLIFFORD: I can sum that easily, maybe the Mogadishu Pirates captured the Tradition, that the different it is today?

TOM FUDGE: What you think of the fact that we do romanticize romanticize Pirates and we think of them as romantic figures or positive figures or food looked at that time we made out of the way but that can't

BARRY CLIFFORD: These people are outlaws no mistake about it, you have pictures of people in your heart who could be a hate this is higher for what they did, have a group of people who rebelled, blacks, Native Americans, the light brutalized merchants said sailors and the Scottish, they were they formed utopian groups and as it explores one who discovered this, that necessarily calling myself an academic, I see my job is presented by findings to the academic world so that people can decide for themselves who these people really work.

TOM FUDGE: I will say to certainly ironic that these Pyrex hijacked a slave ship, see and ask yourself who was doing what wrong here? What you hope people will take away from this?

BARRY CLIFFORD: I hope people will take away what you just said, going back and looking through your history and dissecting history yourself and don't necessarily believe everything that has been told you how go back in and investigate yourself, and certainly having been a former schoolteacher my eyes popped popped up and when I realized to these people really were and what would have stood this strip shipwreck is to keep it in to be gathered together. Before the rules that the museums play is to inspire people to learn and we meet people to ask questions and learn and go deeper and that is one of the primary response abilities of the fourteen museums in the ballpark is to be a canvas for people to discover and learn and not just weeded on the internet or on the television to really be self-directed in learning and this that the exhibition really actually helps kids and families really learn a little bit more about it. As opposed to from a Disney movie.

TOM FUDGE: Before we're out of time is there anything else you want to tell us about the exhibition?

SUSAN LOVEALL: I wanted to let people know that they can go to our website to purchase advance tickets and it's a time ticket, it's especially ticketed exhibition and slightly higher ticket price And it does include general admission to in addition to the general Pirates.

TOM FUDGE: Thank you both, the exhibit of real Pirates is on display at the San Diego natural history Museum and we have more information on our website as well. I have been speaking with Barrr Clifford and also Susan Loveall, who is vice president at the Natural History Museum. Thank you very much.