“Carefully researched, and brilliantly studied, this account of Quedagh Merchant and its notorious master, Captain William Kidd, looks beyond the romance and fiction to give us a true account of the man, the ship, and their times.”—James P. Delgado, coauthor of The Lost Submarines of Pearl Harbor
The troubled chain of events involving Captain Kidd’s capture of Quedagh Merchant and his eventual execution for piracy in 1701 are well known, but the exact location of the much sought-after ship remained a mystery for more than 300 years. In 2010, a team of underwater archaeologists confirmed that the sunken remains of Quedgah Merchant had finally been found off the coast of the Dominican Republic.
Kidd’s shipwreck reveals insights into life aboard a pirate ship, as well as the forces of world-scale economies in the 17th century. Using evidence from the site, Frederick Hanselmann deconstructs the tales of the nefarious captain, and what emerges is a true story of an adventurer and privateer contextualized by issues of economics, politics, empire, and individual ambition. The analysis takes in the site’s main features, wood samples from the hull, the hull’s construction, and mass spectrometry of sampled ballast stones. As Hanselmann unravels the mysteries surrounding the “Moorish” Quedagh Merchant, he finds linkages to world trade and the expansion of globalization in an extensive network connecting British, Indian, colonial American and Armenian kings, emperors, lords, governors, merchants, sailors, and pirates.
Captain Kidd’s Lost Ship also makes a powerful case for in situ preservation, demonstrating that the community-based approach used for the Quedagh Merchant shipwreck avoids the artificial divide between cultural and natural resources. Today, the site is accessible to the general public as a “Living Museum of the Sea” that preserves cannons, anchors, corals, and the history of one of the world’s most famous pirates.
Frederick H. Hanselmann is director of the Underwater Archaeology and Underwater Exploration programs at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami. He is coauthor of The Maritime Landscape of the Isthmus of Panamá.
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