Buried History Lies Beneath the Beaches of the National Seashore Cheers to Dead Pirates!
by Lynne Delaney
It is easy to become immersed in the magnificent natural beauty at Marconi beach in the National Seashore Park of Cape Cod.
On this particular day, the production of natural forces was especially mesmerizing. The air was unusually balmy and storm-like for an evening in April. The clouds in the sky were built up in layers of mountainous shades of slate gray and blue. The wave-churning ocean water reflected these colors as if to exchange compliments of power.
My husband and I stood on the beach, lost in the vast and open creation of beauty. As we admired how amazing this place is, our attention slowly came back to the main reason we had come here this particular evening.
Standing upon the sand, I imagined the mass grave that we stood above. Over 100 men were buried under this beach - 294 years ago. That thought made a shiver go up my spine as I imagined I could see beneath the sandy covering of their burial site.
We were here to pay homage to our historic Cape Cod predecessors who were involved in the wreck of the pirate ship Whydah and others that lived in this area during that time. As the history books say, the Whydah wrecked on April 26, 1717. Some of the men were lost to the sea, never to be found. One hundred bodies washed up on shore and were buried in a mass grave on the beach.
Amidst the swirling chaos of hurricane force winds, only two men are known to have survived: John Julian, a Native American man, and Thomas Davis, a Welsh carpenter who was forced to join the pirate crew. The legends about the Whydah disagree about whether Sam Bellamy, the man who acquired this great ship, indeed survived.
Bellamy is usually portrayed as an egalitarian pirate, but some of the men didn't even want to be on the ship. Nonetheless, they were pirates and, good or bad, we feel that they are lost souls. So to honor them we sent a prayer and gave a toast of rum in hopes that they find peace.
Josh Delaney offers a toast of rum to the lost pirates of the Whydah.
We then turned towards the cliff of the dunes and offered words of solace and a handful of dried herbs to the spirit of Maria Hallett, who is said to roam these bluffs, waiting for her love, Sam Bellamy, to return to her. Next, we gave kind words to the Natives who used to live on and take care of this land. We especially sent prayers and sacred tobacco smoke to John Julian, who loved this land and wanted it to stay in the hands of nature, not men.
Back in 2000, as my husband recounted the tale of the Whydah, pirate Sam Bellamy and Maria Hallett, I asked him if he had ever thought about writing a book about it. The rest is history – ten years of researching and writing for him, and brainstorming and editing for both of us. In addition to the main characters of the legend, a Native man, John Julian, is brought to the forefront in our version of the tale.
Julian represents the emotional upheaval of what the local Wampanoags went through as their land and ancestry were slowly taken from them. He follows the messages of the Great Spirit, especially the spirit of the wolf, to find answers to why his land is changing. We feel it is important to recognize the people who were here before us and learn what their life was like in an earlier era.
We are so grateful that we can come to this special place to be with nature and to step back in time to when life was simpler.
Thanks to the National Seashore, this land's beauty has been preserved, which allows room for the past to live on in the open vastness of forest, beaches and ocean. This is a place where history can remain untouched and given space to illuminate stories of the past that help to shape our Cape's heritage.
Lynne Delaney is a regular contributor to this magazine. She lives in Brewster with her husband Joshua and their beloved dog Brady.
Also the editor of her husband's new novel Pieces of Eight, Lynne is now busy marketing his book.
To read an excerpt from the book and learn about the pirates, witchcraft and Colonial Cape Cod that inspired this historical fiction visit www.capecodlegends.com
Summer Signings & Events
Book Signing at Yellow Umbrella Books
Book Signing at Eastham Superette
Book Reading & Signing at Deboarah Ann's Rainbow
Talk Reading and Book Signing at Welfleet Library
Book Reading and Signing at Land Ho! Restaurant
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