Whydah Pirate Ship Holds 'Tons' of Treasure

Divers continue exploring the Whydah off Cape Cod for sunken pirate loot.

ByABC News via logo
August 7, 2008, 1:42 PM

Aug. 8, 2008 — -- More than 300 years ago, the pirate ship known as Whydah was the stuff of adventure stories -- a plundering terror on the high seas.

The pirates of this mighty ship were thought to have robbed at least 50 other ships during their ship's reign over the Atlantic, and the Whydah finally took its rest when it sank in a storm off Cape Cod in 1717, dragging its hefty treasure trove to the depths to be hidden from humanity for centuries.

There it rested undisturbed near Wreck Hill, a watery graveyard for thousands of ships, until 1984 when underwater explorer Barry Clifford and his project team discovered the site of the wreck.

According to the expedition's Web site, it is the "only verified pirate shipwreck ever discovered."

Now, more than two decades and 1,000 item recoveries later, the explorers are still uncovering the nearly four tons of ill-gotten loot.

"When the ship turned over, the treasure that was said to be stored in bags and chests between decks laid together in one great heap," Clifford told "Good Morning America."

That heap is what Clifford calls the "motherload."

Much of the treasure is buried in hardened sediment called concretions. The work to free it is pain-staking.

First, heavy equipment beneath the explorers' boat burrows deep into the ocean floor. Then a tiny camera is sent down to look for any sign of hidden treasure.

If something is found, the divers suit up and slip into the murky water, excitedly hunting where no X marks the spot.

Whether the next dive turns out to be the one to find the motherload or not, plenty of historical booty, what many consider to be the real treasure, has already been uncovered.

After all, it is like the project's motto says, "It's not what you find, it's what you find out."

To find out more about the Whydah, follow the links below.