Shiver me timbers! Avast me mateys! And whatever else it is pirates are supposed to say! Word has just emerged from the depths of the murky Madagascan waters which could reveal one of history's most famous hordes of pirate booty.
US explorer Barry Clifford claims he has uncovered the sunken treasure of notorious Scottish pirate, privateer and brigand Captain William Kid. A 50 kg (107 lbs) silver ingot was brought to shore on Thursday from the island of Île Sainte Marie (a.k.a Nosy Boraha), just off the coast of Madagascar.
The loot was found in what is often claimed to be the sunken wreck of the Adventure Galley, a vessel which served as Kidd's pirate flagship. The wreck - which is not confirmed to be the Adventure - has been known about for some years, but this is the first time any kind of treasure has been brought up from it.
Clifford, the man behind the discovery, is adamant about his find, claiming:
"Captain's Kidd's treasure is the stuff of legends. People have been looking for it for 300 years. To literally have it hit me on the head - I thought what the heck just happened to me. I really didn't expect this. There's more down there. I know the whole bottom of the cavity where I found the silver bar is filled with metal. It's too murky down there to see what metal, but my metal detector tells me there is metal on all sides."
The discovery has caused quite a stir on Madagascar, with the ingot being presented to the president of the African island nation in a special ceremony.
It is believed the ingot, which is stamped with the letters S and T, was originally from 17th-Century Bolivia, although it cannot be conclusively linked to the infamous Kidd. Instead, historians are suggesting that wood samples from the wreck should be analyzed to see if they match those of a ship made in England during this time.
William Kidd has since become one of the most notorious pirates of the 16th-century, although he was perhaps better known for his ruthlessness and execution than his actual success on the high seas. Indeed, he was certainly no Jack Sparrow, that's for sure. See what I mean below:
Who Was Captain Kidd?
Kidd was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1645 and actually started out his naval career as a privateer commissioned by the English crown to hunt pirates and harass French ships. This he and his crew endeavored to do in the Indian Ocean, however they found hardly any pirate ships to attack. Instead, with his crew starting to desert and concerns about covering his costs increasing, it is claimed he resorted to piracy and began attacking ships around the Red Sea - although he seemed to be initially repelled by his early targets.
On October 1697, he killed one of his crewmen, gunner William Moore. It is claimed the two became involved in an argument when a Dutch ship came into view. Moore wanted to attack, but Kidd was reluctant since the King of England at the time was Dutch-born. Kidd apparently called Moore a 'lousy dog' to which Moore replied, "If I am a lousy dog, you have made me so; you have brought me to ruin and many more." Angered, Kidd threw a heavy bucket at his head, fracturing Moore's skull and killing him. Although captains were allowed to take severe measures to discipline crew, murder was not permitted. Kidd was unconcerned, claiming he had "good friends in England, that will bring me off for that."
Soon after this, Kidd's piratical tendencies and ruthlessness increased. Former prisoners talked of being hoisted up by their arms and 'drubbed' with a cutlass, although it's debatable how personally involved Kidd was in this torture.
On January 30, 1698, Kidd captured his most significant prize, the 400-ton Quedagh Merchant - an Armenian ship sailing with an English captain sailing under French protection. The capture of this ship, which was carrying East India Company gold, silver, satin and silks, cemented Kidd's reputation as a pirate in England. Once Kidd discovered its captain was English, he attempted to return the ship, however he was overruled by his increasingly mutinous crew who argued it counted as French. Once news reached England, various commanders were ordered to "pursue and seize the said Kidd and his accomplices" for the "notorious piracies" they had committed.
Kidd now headed to Madagascar where he encountered his first actual pirate, Robert Culliford. Most of Kidd's crew now deserted and left with Culliford, leaving Kidd with only 13 men. Now unable to maintain the Adventure Galley, he scuttled the ship and headed to America in another ship, the Adventure Prize.
He avoided capture in America for some time, before eventually being arrested in Boston and thrown into solitary imprisonment - the harshness of which drove him partially insane. In 1701 he was returned to England where he was tried and executed. His execution was an unusual affair, as he broke two ropes before he was successfully hanged. His body, which was dipped in tar, was hung from chains along the River Thames in London to serve as a warning to others. It remained there for three years.
Soon, stories and legends began to emerge of buried treasure and significant hordes of loot, partially inspiring Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.