According to the Cape Cod National Seashore, there are over 1,000 shipwrecks buried in the sand off the coast of Cape Cod from Chatham to Provincetown. The ocean graveyard includes wrecks like the SS James Longstreet, the Port Hunter, and the Whydah Gally. From time to time, the Cape Clasp team goes out to investigate some of these wrecks. Catch up on our entire Shipwreck Hunters series!
SS James Longstreet
In our latest adventure for CC: Presents, we traveled out to the flats of the Cape Cod Bay, off Eastham to get some drone footage of this well known wreck. The SS James Longstreet was actually beached in 1943 in Sandy Hook, New Jersey after forceful winds pushed the ship onto the flats. After the tide fell, the ship was towed to New York to be repaired, where it was stated as “structurally unfit for sea”. The Navy decided that although the ship would never make waves again, it could serve a purpose as a test ship, and the SS James Longstreet was towed and sunk in Cape Cod bay in 1950. From here it was used as a target for the US Military, that is now covered in holes from both bullets and bombs. Some of the ship remains above the surface and can easily be spotted with the naked eye. This site is listed as a restricted area for diving because of unexploded ordinance which entirely surrounds the wreck.
The Port Hunter
In Summer 2020, we went searching for the Port Hunter, located in the Nantucket sound. It is said to be one of the most intact shipwrecks in the Cape Cod area. In early November of 1918, the Port Hunter, carrying $5 million in clothing, was traveling between Martha’s Vineyard and Falmouth at the same time as tug boat Covington. Covington collided with the Port Hunter, ripping an opening in the side of the ship that was said to be 15 feet high and 7 feet wide, immediately allowing water to gush in, flooding the forward compartment. The 20 crewmates were rescued because of the quick action of the Covington’s skipper who pushed the Port Hunter onto the Hedge Fence Shoal, allowing help to rush to the scene. The infamous Port Hunter sank within 2 hours, and still lays only 20 feet under water at the location of the bow. Although our search for this shipwreck was unsuccessful the first time around, stay tuned for Part 2, with the help of an underwater drone we’re hoping to get some really awesome footage!
The Whydah Gally
Another notorious wreck, pirate ship Whydah Gally, is located off the coast of Wellfleet. This ship went down in 1717, but not without a fight. Originally serving as a slave ship, the Whydah Gally was hijacked by pirate captain, Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy. After the capture, in a gracious act that probably defied ‘pirate law’, Captain Bellamy gifted his former ship, the Sultana to the members of the Whydah, allowing them to safely travel home. From what we’ve read, Bellamy was creating a democracy of his own in the Atlantic waters. After offering up his old ship to the ex-captain and crew of the Whydah, he also freed the enslaved passengers on board by allowing them to “turn pirate” and become part of his crew. Each was given an equal vote when important decisions had to be made. Unfortunately this story doesn’t have such a happy ending. While the ship sailed up the eastern coast of what would become the United States in 1776, the Whydah got caught up in a nor-easter while sailing around the upper arm of the Cape. The crew could not navigate the storm which consisted of 70 mph winds and swells of 30 feet high. The Whydah Gally crashed into a sandbar, breaking it apart. Sadly only two of the 146 men survived. This wreck goes down in history because of the treasure that sank with it. Captain “Black Sam” had captured the riches of approximately 53 other vessels, making him the wealthiest and most successful pirate to date.
Last month, February 2021, pirate remains were discovered by Whydah Gally explorers, and are currently undergoing DNA testing. Because of modern day technological advancements, they believe their findings could provide a link between some of the pirates and their descendants. How cool!
Check out our Whydah Galley Anchor Clasp, named after this ship!
Other Famous Shipwrecks of Cape Cod:
- The Sparrow-Hawk
- USS Merrimack
- USS Bancroft
- Paul Palmer
- HMS Somerset
- SS Andrea Doria
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