Expedition Unknown – Blackbeard’s Hidden Gold – S02E03

image For this episode, Josh is literally right down the road in Greenville, North Carolina and Charleston, South Carolina looking for Blackbeard’s treasure. Now, we all know that Blackbeard was indeed a real pirate, that was first hired as a buccaneer, but then turned into a pirate once privateering was brought to an end. Blackbeard may be one of the most well known and perhaps feared pirates and his final days ended in a blood-soaked showdown, but what about all the treasure he took? Where did that end up? It was rumored he had made a fortune from privacy and was able to buy plenty of land on which he should have retired on. When the end came, the treasure was lost, or more to the point, no one has any idea where it is. But there are plenty of people scouring the beaches and even the wreckage in search of what could be quite a fortune.

As usual, Josh starts off the investigation at the market or rather a pirate festival where he meets up with historians who have focused their research on Blackbeard. They go over some of the places where the treasure could be located and the next stop on the voyage is Cayman Brac. Josh meets up with some treasure hunters who are exploring the caves of the area which would have been most suitable for the storing of loot. They caves are flooded with water and only accessible at low tide. With shovel and lantern in hand, Josh heads in. As far as novels go, it perfectly fits the hiding place. As they search and dig around, they do indeed come across something. Quick to see what they have, they unearth a coin that turns out to be from around the 1800s. Not the time period they’re looking for, but, it certainly makes the point that other items could be buried there. And if there is one coin, there surely is more, so who knows what they might be on the verge of discovering in that cave.

The next part of the investigation moves from the land and caves to the open water of the sea. Josh gets with another treasure hunter that believes the treasure went overboard. Josh suits up and heads into the water. They find some remnants of another ship and then come across the Cayman Abyss, a drop off that goes down 20,000 feet. If the current went the wrong way, if there was a treasure, it’s lost forever.
In the same area they manage to find an old Russian ship that was scuttled decades before. While this is a great discovery and clearly not the right kind of ship, it’s a pretty impressive find, but there are no signs of treasure and really, no signs on anything related to Blackbeard. I’m clearly no expert, but looking for treasure here seems way off course. But it’s all about the thrill of the hunt.

And with that, Josh is off to Greenville NC where they store parts of the ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge. It was in 1718 that Blackbeard sort of lost his mind a little and held the town of Charleston hostage. He set up a blockade and refused to let goods in or out. After negotiating, he agrees to sign a treaty with the governor, but on his way, the Queen Anne runs aground and he destroys the ship.

The team in Greenville is actually cleaning more than 400,000 items that have been recovered so far, including anchors, cannons and tens of thousands of smaller items. But the actual wreckage is out toward the Outer Banks in Beaufort. And more than likely, they have only pulled up half the wreckage. With a great deal of excitement Josh is off to the wreck side and down he goes. Clearly we’re not going to see open treasure chests or anything like that, but we do get to see another one of the massive anchors and more of the cannons. While the water looks clear from the boat, once he’s a couple of feet down, the visibility is horrible. It’s quite impressive they’ve been able to find as much as they have.

There is even more to this story. Blackbeard wrecks the boat then takes off on the Adventure to Bath, NC where he gets a pardon and decides to retire. He uses his money to buy a plantation and even gets married. But the life of leisure doesn’t quite suit him and within a couple of months he’s off again for his last stand.

Since he just bought all the land and is showing off his wealth, it is sort of believed he might have the money with him. But when Captain Maynard comes upon him, there’s no asking questions about treasure and Blackbeard is shot 5 times and stabbed 20 (or so the story goes). Needless to say, he didn’t make it out alive. But it’s believed that some of his treasure has made it over Springer’s Point. With special permission he and yet another treasure hunter break out metal detectors to see what they can find. After locating lots of junk they home in on something big. They scramble only to find a big rock. Yet again, nothing that supports Blackbeard’s treasure would be in the area.
Meanwhile, back in Bath, Josh meets with historian Kevin Duffus, who has a different take on Blackbeard’s treasure. To summarize, in 1718, Blackbeard wrecks his ship, escapes to Bath and there is an economic boon. This could be from the gold Blackbeard supposedly had, but what if that wasn’t the treasure? Duffus believes the treasure was in fact, slaves. Blackbeard was certainly involved in the slave trade and he may have either sold them in the Carolinas or pressed them into service to help build Bath.

It’s a theory that makes a lot of sense given the time period and the area. It would also explain why no one has been able to find said treasure. Or perhaps it’s still waiting to be discovered.

So what’s the truth? And when it comes to anything related to Blackbeard, that’s the question. There is more legend and myth about this pirate than anything else. The stories are so over the top, so larger than life that you really can’t believe anything. But even if the minor details can be believed, was his treasure a chest full of gold coins or was it actually the human lives that would have been used to rebuild the area?

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