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|Posted: 2012-12-13 1:30 pm  Permalink|
No Black Pearl. No Davy Jones. And no Johnny Depp.
Aye, but there be cannon, cutlasses and enough pieces of eight to satisfy Blackbeard himself.
The "Real Pirates" exhibition that opens at the Milwaukee Public Museum on Friday is sure to buckle the swash of any true pirate fan. With more than 150 artifacts recovered from the wreck of a real pirate ship, the exhibit presents buccaneer life as no "Pirates of the Caribbean" film can.
"We know there's an expectation with the perceived fun of the Hollywood version of piracy. But any exhibition we do is with real pieces of real history," said Mark Lach, spokesman for Premier Exhibitions Inc., which owns the traveling exhibit. "Pirates were bad guys. They took things that didn't belong to them. But there is a fantasy and a fun element to them, and I hope we put together a good balance to show what it was like to be a pirate."
The show's artifacts come from the Whydah (pronounced wi-dah), "the first fully authenticated pirate ship discovered in American waters," said Barry Clifford, the underwater explorer who discovered the wreck in 1984 off Cape Cod. "We can trace everything on the Whydah to the real pirate 'Black Sam' Bellamy."
Bellamy was one busy buccaneer. The Whydah was operating as a fast slave galley sailing between Africa and America when it caught Bellamy's eye; he captured it and made it his flagship in February 1717. The Whydah's hull was filled with the loot of more than 50 plundered ships when the 40-foot waves of a nor'easter sank it on April 26, 1717.
All but two members of the 146-man crew went down with the ship.
Visitors to "Real Pirates" will get to spy on what was going on below the Whydah decks on that day, and see everything from the pipes Bellamy's crew smoked to the gold they collected. The exhibit even allows visitors to walk aboard a large-scale replica of the ship. A figure of handsome "Black Sam" is in the captain's cabin playing host.
Other, more somber, tales also get told here. The story of how slave ships such as the Whydah bore their captive human cargo is revealed, with the types of chains used on those evil voyages on display.
But mostly the spotlight is on sunken riches - some large, some small. So practice your best "arrrghs" and we'll chart out 10 "Real Pirates" treasures to discover.
The ship's bell. Sailors' legend has it that the bell is the spirit of a ship. If so, visitors can gaze upon the very "soul" of the Whydah, protected in its own exhibit case. The brass bell bears the engraving "Whydah Gally 1716," an inscription confirming the identity of the wreck that Clifford's team discovered.
Pirate accessories. A real pirate's "look" was perfectly pulled together - pulled together from all the booty he could steal, that is. These pieces of looted finery may be small, but they tell a tale of high seas mystery. Who were the original owners of the copper cufflinks and silver floral buttons, and what fate befell them at the marauders' hands?
The Teye ring. This gold ring reveals much, yet keeps many secrets. The last name Teye seems to hail from the north of England, and other inscribed letters show it once belonged to a ranking British seaman connected with a Royal Navy base. How it got aboard the Whydah is unclear, but know this, hearties: No officer in the King's Navy would have handed it over except at the point of a saber. Unless, of course, he turned pirate himself.
Pirate grenades. Whydah crew members did more than swagger and swill rum. They were masters of 18th-century warfare technology. These amazing grenades were filled with chemicals such as sulfur and pitch, lighted, and then thrown aboard prey ships to smoke out the enemy crew and force them to surrender without a fight. And an easy conquest was the one thing pirates dreamed of more than the arms of Port Royal barmaids.
A royal Danish cannon. This is not just any cannon. The 2,500-pound gun fired 6-pound shot that required four men to load and fire it. Engraving on the gun proclaims that it belonged to "King Christian V of Denmark and Norway" in the late 17th century. We can imagine Bellamy, who was called "Prince of Pirates," boasting he was the monarch who owned the cannon now.
The Sun King pistol. Another bit of loot with a royal connection. This pistol bears images of a Celtic deity engraved on its escutcheon. Clifford's crew discovered a jaunty silk ribbon still wrapped around the pistol. A real pirate used the ribbon as a lanyard to hang the pistol around his neck.
The Turtle Dove seal. In the 17th century, the turtle dove was a symbol of love. Bellamy is said to have fallen in love with Maria Hallet, a Cape Cod beauty, and he turned pirate to become wealthy enough to marry her. Did he send her love letters bearing the imprint of this seal? Beware this love story if he did. The seal's inscription says: "Death, if I lose you." So was this a promise of eternal love - or a pirate's threat?
Gaming tokens. Pirates aboard the Whydah whiled away the hours between attacks by betting on cards and dice. The sweaty palms of nervous pirates once held these lead tokens, nervous because gambling was usually forbidden aboard ship to avoid fights and distractions. But "pirates were outlaws by nature, and the captain may have rules against gambling, (but) these men by nature had a streak of the maverick to bend the rules," Lach said.
The last remains of Little Johnny King. Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be pirates. When 9-year-old John King and his mother were captured by Bellamy's men, the boy demanded that he be allowed to join the Whydah crew. Bellamy was reportedly impressed with the sprite's spirit, and took Johnny on to become the youngest documented pirate on record. A life-size mannequin of the boy grins at visitors aboard the replica ship. But excavators found his small leg bone, silk stocking and leather shoe in the wreck of the Whydah, proof that when the real pirate ship sank, it took John with it.
Pieces of eight. More than 2,500 silver pieces of eight and other coins from the Whydah fill exhibit chests to overflowing. This display may be one of the best "representations of the various coins from around the world of any discovery ever made. The Caribbean was the hub of the world at this time, and the currency came from around the world," Lach said.
Not only can visitors look at pieces of eight, they can touch real coins in an interactive display. And a pirate's life seems even more charming when a piece of eight crosses your palm.
If you go
What: "Real Pirates"
Where: Milwaukee Public Museum, 800 W. Wells St.
When: Friday through May 27
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; extended hours every Thursday until 8 p.m. Tickets are for timed admission.
How much: Monday through Thursday - adults $24, seniors $22, children $17.50; Friday through Sunday - adults $26, seniors, $24; children $18.50. Admission to the rest of the museum is included.
Info: http://www.mpm.edu or (414) 223-4676
[ This Message was edited by: tikilongbeach 2012-12-13 13:31 ]