The Discovery of the Whydah

Pounded by 40-foot waves, the Whydah ran aground, and was battered to bits. This kind of “exploded” wreck is very difficult to recover. In addition, the sea floor off of Cape Cod has a shifting sandy bottom, so the ship and its contents were not only scattered but also buried under 10 to 30 feet of sand. The area is treacherous and over 3,000 ships have gone down there in a 400-year period. The site was also used as a firing range during World War II, adding even more debris to the seabed.

Barry Clifford takes a compass reading while searching for the Whydah
Barry Clifford takes a compass reading while searching for the Whydah

Barry Clifford is not put off by challenges. He had been fascinated by the tale of the Whydah since childhood, and in 1983 began searching for the wreck. It was not until 1985 that he brought up incontrovertible evidence that the wreck was indeed the Whydah—her bell.