Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship

Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship

Barry Clifford
Illustrator:  Gregory Manchess 
Photographer: Kenneth Garrett
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 8 to 10
National Geographic Children's Books, 2008   ISBN: 978-1426302794

When he was a boy growing up on Cape Cod, Barry Clifford used to visit his Uncle Bill, who lived in a shack by the sea. Uncle Bill told Barry all kinds of stories about ships and sailors, and Barry’s favorite was a tale about the Whydah, a ship that sank off Cape Cod on the night of April 26, 1717. Barry was so taken by this story, that when he grew up he set about trying to learn all he could about the ship and her history.

The Whydah was a galley built in London in 1715. She was one of the many ships that were used in the slave triangle. Goods from England were taken to Africa where they were traded for African Slaves. The poor Africans were taken to the Caribbean where they were sold into bondage. The money from the sale of the slaves was used to buy sugar, tobacco, cotton, and coffee, goods that were in high demand back in Europe.

Soon after filling his ship’s hold with goods that were bought with slave money, the captain of the Whydah, Captain Prince, had the misfortune to encounter a pirate ship at sea. The ship was captained by a man called Sam Bellamy. Bellamy was an ex-sailor and treasure hunter who had decided that piracy was a lucrative way to make a living. Bellamy liked the Whydah so much that “he took for his own,” transferring everything from his old pirate flagship to the Whydah.

Bellamy sailed north, robbing other ships as he went. By the time he got to Cape Cod, Bellamy’s two ships, the Whydah and the Mary Anne, were loaded down with riches. Unfortunately for Bellamy, his ships sailed into a storm that wrecked both ships. The Whydah’s final resting place was a mystery until Barry Clifford managed to find it 1984.

In this fascinating narrative about one of the world’s most famous pirate ships, Barry Clifford tells us the story about the ship, he tells us about Bellamy and his crew, and he gives us plenty of background information about the slave trade, pirate ships, and more. The book is full of illustrations and maps, and there are photographs of some of the artifacts that Barry Clifford and his team found on the wreck of the Whydah.

Readers who have an interest in stories about real pirates will be captivated by the Whydah’s exciting and tragically short history.