Buried Treasure

From the Vineyard Gazette editions of August, 1983:

West Tisbury salvager and treasure hunter Barry Clifford says he’s found proof, at least to his own satisfaction, that he’s discovered the pirate ship Whidah, sunk with its vast treasure off the coast of Cape Cod in 1717.

He’s found an iron rudder strap that looks to be from a ship the size of the Whidah. He’s come up with a molten fire brick and, he says, the Whidah is said to have had a big stove on board. He’s also found “a chisled point sheathing nail, and very old hemp lines.”

Mr. Clifford has 14 divers working on the salvage operation, but the key component of the effort is his specially equipped boat which includes a propeller able to blow holes in the bottom sands.

Meanwhile, others are trying to stake their claim to the treasure of Pirate Sam “Black” Bellamy. The state Marine Archaeology Board has recently received two applications from men hoping to dig for the Whidah near Mr. Clifford’s operation. “It’s like a gold rush,” Mr. Clifford says.

Black Bellamy and his crew had loaded the Whidah with 400 bags of coins, a casket of East Indian jewels, ivory, gold and silver bars and she was headed for Black Bellamy’s girlfriend on the Cape when the ship went down in a storm just 700 yards off the coast.

Appetite for a Vineyard summer was strong in young hearts last May and June, and promises came easily. But now, surely as the birds fly south and the lemmings plunge into the sea, off go our waiters, waitresses, bus boys, porters and so on, bound cityward.

“Frogs appear slow to make their minds up,” wrote Thoreau, “but then they act precipitately. As long as they are here, they are here, and express no intention of removing. But the idea of removing fills them instantaneously. Now they are fixed and imperturbable like the sphinx, and now they go off with short, squatty leaps over the spatterdock on the irruption of the least idea.”

Should we expect better of our college generations than we do of our frogs? Experience teaches us that we are unwise if we do so. The same nature works in both.

Temperature has its influence, too. A few chilly nights of radiational cooling or a breeze from the north — these are basic changes. We cannot modify them, and they cannot avoid modifying us, if we are young. Off we go, over the spatterdock.

The Vineyard schools have a new fellow in charge this year, who is not new at all. Francis “Sancy” Pachico can be expected to bring a sense of continuity and wisdom to the job of superintendent of Vineyard schools. Mr. Pachico is a native of Vineyard Haven. He knows all about this community, its passions, and prejudices. He played basketball for the Tisbury High School team against Edgartown and Oak Bluffs back when the rivalry among these three towns was strong. He’s attended hundreds of meetings over the years, moving easily among educators and parents from all walks of life on the Island.

The bidding struggle for control of the Martha’s Vineyard National Bank flared anew when the Bank of Boston Corporation announced its intention to purchase more than 50 per cent of the Island bank and Edward Redstone increased his offer to match the corporation price per share.

The corporation, holder of the First National Bank of Boston, announced it will apply to the Federal Reserve Board for permission to acquire at least a majority of the shares in the bank. However, Phillip Sullivan, of the Bank of Boston, said the corporation has made no commitment to any current stockholder.

Mr. Redstone, chairman of the First Bank of Chelmsford, and a resident of West Tisbury and Newton, countered the announcement with an offer to buy shares for the same price the Bank of Boston has offered.

“To anyone who cares about the Martha’s Vineyard National Bank remaining an independent bank, I would say don’t sell or give an option to buy to anyone. But I am prepared to buy stock from people who want or need to sell, at the same price the Bank of Boston is offering,” Mr. Redstone said.

Meanwhile, bank president William Honey yesterday said he will fight the Bank of Boston offer.

The 1984 presidential campaign had its official opening on the Vineyard when a reception was held at the Vineyard Haven home of Paul C. Warnke for Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado, who seeks the nomination of the Democratic party. Senator Hart called his campaign a grass-roots campaign.

“I want to involve the people who have not been involved,” he said. “I want to involve the young people. I want to involve minorities. I want to involve women.”

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner