Monday, January 4, 2010

And Life Returns to Normal ...

... whatever that is.

I'm finally back at work - which is why I'm blogging instead of doing what I'm supposed to be doing - and can finally put behind me the chaos that is the holiday season. And while chaos is better than a day at work - where I have more than enough chaos - it is nice to be able to get back into a routine.

But enough small talk. I have a review of a pirate exhibit par excellence!

A couple of days after Christmas, One Ring and I went to Nauticus, the otherwise unmentionable nautical museum in Norfolk, Virginia. However, the exhibit they brought in - the National Geographic sponsored showing of artifacts from the wreck of the pirate ship Whydah - was absolutely phenomenal.

Without going into too much detail about the story of the Whydah itself (there are two links to the right of this page that send you straight to the exhibit, and this one is about the recovery process), I can say that this exhibit was the most detailed of any I have ever seen. It opened with a short film that tells the tale of Sam Bellamy and his untimely death within 500 feet of the coast of Cape Cod. The screen then lifted up revealing the ship's bell, engraved with the name "Whydah," which was all the proof needed to show that this was the first (and thus far only) pirate shipwreck ever discovered.

Although the wreck is spread out over four miles of sea floor, a multitude of artifacts have been discovered. Everything from weapons - cannons, pistols, and sword hilts - to medical supplies. And let me tell you, the sight of those large metal syringes, with needles that looked more like harpoon tips than anything else, made me very queasy! There was even a large chest filled with silver coins. Much to my surprise, having grown up with movies showing pirate treasure being mostly perfectly minted gold coins, these were roughly cut and stamped pieces. Apparently keeping them round like the coins we have today was not so much an issue.

And since the Whydah was first a slave ship, before Bellamy and company took it as a prize, there was an astonishing amount of detail given to the slave trade - how it worked, how slave ships operated, even the shackles used to keep the slaves from jumping overboard and committing suicide (the local religious beliefs held that if one died near ones homeland, that person would be reincarnated as a member of the same tribe). It was very sobering, and actually made Bellamy seem like a hero to have at least taken the Whydah out of the business. In the final part of the exhibit, we read that one of Bellamy's crew, John Julian, who was half Mosquito Indian, was actually sold into slavery. He was hanged in 1733 after an escape attempt in which he killed a bounty hunter who attempted to capture him.

If you get a chance, check out the exhibit. The tour dates are on the website. It's worth every penny.

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