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‘Captain Kidd’s Treasure’ Has Finally Been Discovered

Archaeologist hope their discovery of a 121-pound bar of silver is just the beginning

(2/Jeffrey Coolidge/Ocean/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

William Kidd was a notorious pirate hunter turned notorious pirate, and legend has it that he left treasure behind. Now, a group of archaeologists thinks they’ve found part of Captain Kidd’s booty in a shipwreck off the coast of Madagascar — a 121-pound bar of silver, they say, is just the tip of the treasure iceberg.

The Guardian’s Jessica Elgot reports that a team of divers found the bar of silver while investigating shallow waters off Saint Marie Island. They’ve been scouring the area for remains of the Adventure Galley, William Kidd’s ship, which was discovered underwater in 2000. Though past trips unearthed old bottles of rum and shards of pottery, archaeologists never found anything that could be considered “treasure” until now.

Captain Kidd took the helm of the Adventure Galley in 1695, when he was hired by a group of English investors to hunt down pirates. But, the story goes, when Kidd failed to find pirates on his journey, he became one himself. By 1698, the vessel was unseaworthy and Kidd ran it ashore in Madagascar. His crew deserted him to join another pirate captain and he was arrested, tried, and executed for piracy in 1701.

Kidd’s death did little to tamp down rumors that he left plenty of treasure behind on his adventures. The BBC reports that explorer Barry Clifford, who discovered the ship more than a decade ago, is convinced there’s even more loot at the bottom of the ocean. But though his team “has no doubt that the discovery is genuine,” they hope to validate their findings with analysis of wood from the shipwreck.

Genuine or no, one thing is clear: that’s one big piece of silver. Clifford and his team presented it to the president of Madagascar Thursday, and Elgot writes that officials hope the find will promote tourism in the country. The president's office Tweeted a photo of the find, with the note: "Saint Marie Island: Discovery of a wreck and treasure in the waters of the Island of Saint Marie.”

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