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The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found

by Martin W. Sandler

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Martin W. Sandler’s book, The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found, is a very entertaining read. It tells the history of the Whydah, one of only a handful of pirate ships ever discovered and salvaged.

Commissioned in London in 1715, the Whydah was named after the West African slave-trading kingdom of Ouidah (the ship being a slave ship intended for the Atlantic slave trade). Sadly for its owners, but presumably happily for many potential future slaves, the Whydah was attacked during its maiden voyage by pirates under the command of “Black Sam” Bellamy, who converted the Whydah into his piratical flagship.

Bellamy and his comrades used the Whydah, among other ships, to attack vessels up and down the American coast, amassing am utter fortune in loot. Unfortunately for Bellamy and his crew, a storm (combined with a captured merchant captain’s cunning) led to the sinking of the Whydah and the drowning of most of her crew before they had time to spend any of their ill-gotten gains. A fortune thus sank beneath the waves. The Whydah was not seen again until 1984 when treasure hunters found her and began to retrieve her contents, though millions in gold thought to have been aboard the Whydah when she sank remain undiscovered.

Mr. Sandler tells both the historical and the modern portions of the Whydah's story with verve. And his book is, as I’ve said, an entertaining read. But I found myself wishing he would have presented more details about the golden age of piracy than he did, writing a book that was not quite so slim and quick a read. And I wish he’d have given the details he did give as part of his text, or even as footnotes or appendices, rather than as multi-page sections that oddly interrupted his main story, completely throwing off his main narrative.

Still, the book is fun and informative and I recommend it. ( )
  tnilsson | Apr 19, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A well-researched and lively history of the pirate ship WHYDAH, from its beginnings as a slave ship, to its reign as one of the most feared pirate ships, to its eventual fate as the first pirate shipwreck unearthed. The book also chronicles the life and career of its captain, Sam Bellamy. The author describes in vivid detail the life of a pirate, dispelling many of the romantic myths, but explaining the factors that led poor people facing indentured servitude or horrible conditions in a navy to welcome the chance to be master of their own fates as pirates; the relative democratic structures aboard a pirate ship; and the hard and sometimes violent lives.

The second part of the book deals with the efforts to locate the sunken remnants of the Whydah, based on oral histories of its shipwreck off the Cape Cod coast, and using modern technologies. The book is interspersed with small excerpts of information about topics such as slavery, the mechanics of a pirate attack, etc.

I highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in learning more about the real story behind pirates. ( )
  sylliu | Apr 10, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
4.5 Stars. I received The Whydah, A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked & Found by Martin W. Sandler from Early Reviewers on LibraryThing. This book is printed by Candlewick Press and is part of the Junior Library Guild Selection. Although it's intended for children (ages 8-14 or "middle grade") I found this book fascinating and very informative. It revived the love I used to have for this topic and I read it one sitting. Pirates have fascinated me for so long and I know that 14 year-old me would have loved to have this book. Mentions of "pieces of eight," and The Pearl, brought back good memories, and just in time for the fifth film coming out this summer (though a different Pearl, it's the ambiance that matters). I would recommend that every school library gets a copy of this with students grades 6-8, as well as high schools.

Sandler has woven a beautiful timeline of the Whydah in this book. By focusing on one ship he dives into the details of every aspect of piracy. He begins by following our main Captain pirate: Samuel Bellamy, to whom he refers to as Robin Hood of the seas, and the history of the ship he hijacks: The Whydah. He reminds the reader that this was a time of unrestrained murder, robbery, and kidnapping and that the true stories of pirate cruelty shocked the population throughout the 1700s. He explains the Articles of Agreement (among pirates) from the notorious pirate Captain Bartholomew Roberts, and my personal favourite fun fact that the "Jolly Roger" is the name of the flag for pirates not a ship's name (though we may know it as such because of Treasure Island and Peter and Wendy). The history of the "Jolly Roger" is fascinating and he explains why and how the flag got its name. Sandler also goes into the details of torture methods on board, punishments, as well as the good parts of pirate atmosphere on the ship such as theatrical sketches put together by the crew, and facing the wrath of the sea as well as critical weather conditions (i.e. storms, wind etc.)

The second half of the book focuses on the wreck of the Whydah and the importance of each artifact which was retrieved in 1984. The Whydah was the first sunken pirate ship ever to be found/excavated and validated many stories. I guess dead men tell some tales!
The details of each artifact, its history, and importance are absolutely fascinating and throughout Sandler debunks many pirate myths.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves the topic of Pirates. The book is so beautiful, it has many illustrations, and (perhaps this is just my copy) the newly printed copy smells amazing. Again, this is aimed at a younger audience, but as an adult I got a lot from it, and it delivered what its title promised it would. Lastly, on a personal note, it revived my love and passion for Pirate History. ( )
  AndreeaMarin | Apr 9, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0763680338, Hardcover)

The exciting true story of the captaincy, wreck, and discovery of the Whydah — the only pirate ship ever found — and the incredible mysteries it revealed.

The 1650s to the 1730s marked the golden age of piracy, when fearsome pirates like Blackbeard ruled the waves, seeking not only treasure but also large and fast ships to carry it. The Whydah was just such a ship, built to ply the Triangular Trade route, which it did until one of the greediest pirates of all, Black Sam Bellamy, commandeered it. Filling the ship to capacity with treasure, Bellamy hoped to retire with his bounty — but in 1717 the ship sank in a storm off Cape Cod. For more than two hundred years, the wreck of the Whydah (and the riches that went down with it) eluded treasure seekers, until the ship was finally found in 1984 by marine archaeologists. The artifacts brought up from the ocean floor are priceless, both in value and in the picture they reveal of life in that much-mythologized era, changing much of what we know about pirates.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 13 Jan 2017 13:49:58 -0500)

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