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Protecting a buccaneer's booty.

Take a big step back into history to the days of swash-buckling buccaneers, British West Indies trade routes, and free-wheeling piracy on the open seas and capture the excitement of being associated with the security and protection of what archaeologists say is the only documented and excavated sunken pirate ship in the world, The Whydah Pirate Ship Expedition.

The expedition, which has retrieved precious metals and historical artifacts worth between $40 and $100 million, traces its modern-day business operation to the tragedy that brought the vessel with a crew of 150 to its watery grave off the coast of Welfleet, Massachusetts, on April 26, 1717.

The legend of the 300-ton ship begins with its infamous commander, Captain Samuel Bellamy, an English sailor who while visiting with a local friend on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, decided to invest his luck in salvaging silver bars from sunken Spanish galleons off the coast of the West Indies. Having failed to find the treasure they sought and down on their luck, Bellamy and his crew turned to piracy rather than return to New England penniless. Operating mainly in the Caribbean, they plundered the cargoes of many ships.

On the morning of April 26, 1717, the Whydah (pronounced "widda") encountered the Mary Anne, an English vessel laden with wine. The ship was taken quickly by Bellamy and his crew, and the pirates lost no time getting thoroughly drunk and setting off again.

A storm from the east, which had been threatening for some time, suddenly broke loose. The Whydah was buffeted toward the coast of what is now South Welfleet, Massachusetts. The towering waves pushed Bellamy's prized ship toward the shore despite his efforts to pull away to deeper waters.

Shortly before midnight the Whydah ran aground on a shoal where the waves pounded the vessel. By morning the ship, laden with cargo and worn by the storm and surf, turned bottom up sending all of its booty of cannons, jewels, and money crashing through the decks to the bottom of the sea. Bellamy and a crew of 147 pirates went to a watery grave with the treasures while the ship broke apart. Two crew members, a carpenter and a Cape Cod Indian, survived to face charges of piracy. Both were later released based on claims they had not acted of their own free will.

Learning of the shipwreck several days later, the governor of Boston dispatched Captain Cyprian Southhack and some of the militiamen to retrieve what remained of Bellamy's treasures. When they arrived, the men found the area picked clean of the remnants of the wreck by local villagers. The storm and waves had covered over with sand what was left of the Whydah.

Southhack drew a detailed map of the area pinpointing the wreck before returning to Boston. Following the storm only an occasional coin or ship's piece would wash up on shore. The wreck remained hidden from many determined treasure seekers throughout the centuries.

Nearly 300 years later, a local real estate business owner, Barry Clifford, set out to fulfill his lifelong quest to find Bellamy's treasure ship. Using microfilmed documents from the Boston Public Library, Clifford found Southhack's original journal and the map he sketched of the wreck. He double-checked the treasure map by researching the exact locations of coins that had washed up on shore over the years. He used the coin locations to recreate the Whydah's scatter pattern of wreckage emanating from the point of impact. The calculations, when adjusted for a few centuries of beach erosion, produced a two-mile-wide area to search.

According to the 1973 Massachusetts Underwater Archaeology and Treasure and Trove Act, a sunken vessel is under the domain of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts if it meets several criteria, including being more than 100 years old and being valued at more than $5,000. Clifford applied for and was granted a permit by the Massachusetts Archaeological Board to search the two-mile area of the wreck. Under the Massachusetts law, whoever discovers underwater treasure and artifacts receives 75 percent of its value and the state receives the remaining 25 percent.

In 1983 Clifford founded Maritime Explorations, Inc., rounded up a crew of ten, and purchased an old 60-foot Navy research vessel called the Vast Explorer II. The boat, which was to be used as the expedition's excavation and diving platform, was overhauled and outfitted with several technical underwater surveying instruments.

Modern technological advances, such as side-scan sonar, sophisticated Loran charting equipment, and magnetometers used to detect deposits of metal below the ocean floor, allowed Maritime Explorations to conduct the most extensive search to date in the waters off Welfleet. Though hundreds of determined adventurers had made prior attempts to locate Bellamy's treasure chest, all had come up empty-handed over the years.

Noted for lethal currents, zero visibility, and the constant abrasion of sea and sand, this area of Outer Cape Cod is second only to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, for having the roughest waters on the Eastern Seaboard. Other factors working against the company were a weather-driven, limited diving season (April to October) and the constant threat of ocean squalls developing in the area, even during good weather.

Despite all the obstacles, the first attempt at locating the Whydah began during the spring of 1983. Due to the erosion of the shore over the centuries, the 1717 surf zone, where the wreck broke up and was buried, was calculated to be approximately 500 yards of shore. The search was concentrated in this area along the coastline. A search involved monitoring the magnetometer for a hit, a reading that registers a deposit of metal ore below the ship.

The Loran charting equipment would register the location of the reading. Sonar would then be used to view the bottom and determine if the magnetometer reading was due to something visible or buried under the sand. If a hole needed to be blown, the boat would be anchored in a triangle pattern with one anchor off the bow and two off each corner of the stern firmly entrenched in the ocean bottom. Then the mailboxes, a nickname given to two huge aluminum pipe elbows, would be lowered over the boat's dual propellers. The mailboxes were mounted on the stern of the boat with massive hinges that would allow them to pivot down into the water and swing up to swallow the propellers.

Scuba divers would dive down and fasten the pipe elbows to the bottom of the boat. With the mailboxes in place and positioned above the site to be searched, the boat's engines would be revved, forcing columns of propeller wash through the elbows and downward to the ocean bottom. The turbulent propeller wash would push away tons of sand, creating a crater on the ocean floor and exposing the items detected. Scuba divers would then swim down into the crater and sift through the sediment to examine what was present. The entire process, involving the whole crew working nonstop at the dive hole, was tedious and time consuming.

As far as pirate's booty was concerned, the first season was rather uneventful. More than 100 magnetometer hits registered in the search area but were of no value. Divers examined the holes and found everything from telephone cables to artillery shells and dud ordinance, remnants from an army test firing range used off the beach during World War II.

Close to the end of the second diving season the crew investigated an unpromising magnetometer reading. The hit was deceptively faint compared with previous readings due to the polarization of iron over the centuries. The sedate mood on the boat quickly changed to elation when the divers brought up a 1684 silver coin from Peru along with tales of sightings of cannons, musket balls, and many more coins. Coincidentally, an NBC news team was on board filming that trip, and the discovery of the underwater pirate's treasure enjoyed instant public attention.

From late August through October 1984 the crew retrieved more than 4,000 silver coins known as Spanish pieces of eight in near perfect condition, plus silver coins from the Netherlands, France, and England, all dated between 1638 and 1715. A single, half-dollar sized Spanish coin, dated 1653, was valued at $40,000 by a numismatic expert. Also recovered that season were several iron cannons, dozens of musket balls, a few Spanish gold doubloons, pieces of gold bars, and several of the ship's artifacts.

By the end of the season, the recently acquired fortune of precious metals and artifacts was estimated to be worth between $1 and $2 million. Clifford quickly realized he had been too keenly focused on finding the treasure and had overlooked the need to secure the booty from modern-day pirates, including potential internal thieves as the staff increased to handle the operation.

Having a background in security operations and law enforcement and being well acquainted with diving and maritime operations through the military, I was hired as the director of security for the expedition. My primary assignment was to develop and institute a security standard operating procedure (SSOP) for the expedition covering water operations, the land and water interface area, and land activities. Each area was unique and required specific security issues to be addressed. The first step was a security survey and threat assessment of all the activities. This objective was accomplished by conducting a walk-through of all the company's operations and developing countermeasures to security vulnerabilities. The survey process was given top priority by Clifford, and I reported my findings and recommendations directly to him for approval and immediate implementation.

My survey began out on the boat with the site excavation and extraction process. To fully evaluate this process from a security viewpoint, it was necessary to participate as a salvage diver. Only by doing the work could I see firsthand the possible threats to the treasure during the process and know where the existing vulnerabilities were.

To begin the excavation process the Vast Explorer II was held in place with three anchors in a triangle pattern, after which mailboxes were lowered and secured, and the hole blown in the ocean bottom. The treasure was fully protected in its natural state, being buried under approximately twenty feet of sand. Only by duplicating the elaborate process of setting up and blowing holes, with all the requisite and specialized equipment, could any modern pirate gain access to the trove.

After the hole was blown, two divers descended through approximately twenty feet of water to the crater's edge and then another fifteen to twenty feet to the bottom of the crater. A central reference point was set and a grid plotting system constructed over the bottom of the crater. The grid system would establish where the item was retrieved from within the hole and relative to an overall coordinated site plotting system.

Visibility was often two feet or less and tasks were performed at a painfully slow and tedious pace. Once the grid was set in the hole the divers would search for items. The coins and artifacts were felt with the diver's hands as they fanned the sediment to expose the item. When small objects were found, the divers placed them in a plastic bag noting the location. Larger object locations were sketched by the diver on an underwater slate for later dissemination.

When a recovery bag was full, both divers surfaced together for safety. They were immediately assisted into the boat and the items were transferred to the possession of an on-board archaeologist who took the artifacts to itemize, classify, and log their grid information in a journal jointly with the recovery divers. I was also present observing the inventory process.

Following the journal entry, items were placed in a container of seawater for preservation purposes and kept on the rear deck due to the limited space on the boat. The artifacts in the containers were in full view of the entire crew at all times during the work day. Any guests on the boat required an escort while viewing the treasures due to ease of pilferage in their unsecured state. The archaeologist's journal was placed under lock and key in the navigator's cabin, away from the rest of the activity.

Artifact recovery operations required the divers to work on the buddy system. This was primarily for the divers' safety but also served a security purpose. Unless both divers were in collusion and planned to steal treasure from the expedition, the honor system served to prevent theft. If two divers were to be suspected of collusion, they would have been paired differently or a third diver would be sent to assist with underwater work. Lastly, all new company personnel were screened prior to hiring. Diver applications were carefully checked and candidates rejected if they had questionable employment histories. Fortunately, during my time on the expedition, no divers were suspected of stealing artifacts.

The only possible way divers could steal valuables while underwater would be to cache them under the boat as they came out of the water. Certain drug smugglers have used this method by affixing a container on the hull of a ship going to port. The underwater cache eludes all ship surface inspections. Once in port, the hidden container would be retrieved at the smugglers earliest convenience.

The only way to detect such caches is by conducting an underwater hull search, however, if dishonest divers attempted to hide coins on the boat's hull, the cache would likely be discovered by subsequent divers during their ascent and climb into the boat. If the dishonest divers planted their cache during the last dive before the boat was to leave the site, the temporary cache would probably have been swept off during the cruise back to port.

The possibility of divers hiding treasure on the ocean bottom for later retrieval was remote due to the constant wave action and currents, which would have buried a concealed cache. Lastly, the ensemble worn by the divers, which included a dry suit (a sealed rubber insulated uni-suit), breathing apparatus, air tanks, weight belt, and fins, did not provide adequate places to conceal coins. Once back on the boat, any hidden coins would have been discovered by the crew.

The Vast Explorer II stayed on-site in good weather to maximize the available excavation time. The boat remained on-site at night with a crew of three. The rest of the crew was ferried to port on a small launch. The night watch detail was rotated throughout the whole crew for the security of the boat and the assets on board. One of the three nighttime crew members stood watch on a revolving shift basis throughout the night.

The watch guard was armed with a Mini-14 (.223 cal.) carbine rifle, and a backup rifle was available for another crew member. I trained all crew members in counterterrorist techniques and rifle marksmanship routinely throughout the season. Boat floodlights were positioned high on the mast amidship illuminating the entire deck and the surrounding waters sufficiently for surveillance. A marine band radio was in operation with frequencies tuned to the nearest US Coast Guard Station and local police department.

Despite the application of these countermeasures, the company assets remained extremely vulnerable to many threats at night. The boat was anchored 500 yards off an isolated beach and approximately 25 miles from the nearest port. Any law enforcement response to a distress radio call would probably have taken from one to two hours.

Realistically, the crew had to be self-sufficient for their own security and safety. Possible threats while on the water at night ranged from an armed attack from speedboats to scuba divers swimming from a boat or from shore to assault and rob the Vast Explorer II. (These threats are fully discussed in my article, "The Threat from Below," which appeared in Security Management in November 1988). Even if an expensive and all-encompassing water-borne security system were deployed to deter and delay adversaries, it would have been impossible to eliminate all vulnerabilities.

The idea of increasing the number of overnight crew and armaments to bolster the defense of the boat and assets was rejected as too costly. It would have had a negative impact on the overall operation of the expedition due to limited resources and manpower. Given the isolated environment, the limited security capabilities, and the response time needed for law enforcement assistance, any of the threat scenarios could have been planned and executed by a moderately ambitious group with a minimum amount of resources and a high probability of success.

In view of the postulated threat scenarios, Clifford decided to assume some risk but limit the amount of collected valuables stored on board overnight before transferring them to the company's land security operation. In reviewing all the expedition's areas, the excavation operation's nighttime environment was, and remained, the most vulnerable to security threats.

Provincetown, Massachusetts, at the tip of Cape Cod, was the port for transfer of company artifacts to land. The water and land interface operation commenced at the commercial wharf in the harbor. Once sufficient valuables were accumulated, the crew would lift anchor and travel to port. During the trip to port, the boat's crew would coordinate arrival with the necessary vehicles via radio to transport the treasures securely from the wharf.

The number and type of transport vehicles required were arranged based on what was to be transferred from the boat. A heavy-duty container truck was needed to transport the cannons, while smaller vehicles could carry the lighter items, such as the coins and smaller artifacts. Police escort would be arranged if necessary, as when large crowds were attracted by media attention.

One notable transfer was of the Whydah's bell. This find was historically significant for it proved that the company had found Bellamy's ship. The inscription "Whydah Gally 1716" on the bell silenced the skeptics of the expedition and made national news.

During the actual physical transfer of items from the boat to the vehicles, police would control the crowds, and selected crew members would observe the entire operation from a high vantage point on the boat ensuring that the treasure was protected. I controlled the operation, allocating staff as needed. This transfer process was expedited to reduce the exposure of assets between secure areas.

Once the items were secure in the vehicles, company drivers left the wharf and traveled approximately 35 miles to the next station, which would either be the bank vault or company's laboratory depending on what was being transported. The archaeologist with his journal would accompany the items to the destination. Once the vehicles departed the wharf area, the boat's crew gathered provisions and fuel before traveling back to the Welfleet site.

Drivers were familiar with the roads and the transfer of treasures was random. Consequently, the treasures were less vulnerable to a hijacking in transit than when at the wharf.

The destination of the transport vehicles was determined by the value of the artifacts. Usually the treasure would be taken to Maritime Explorations' laboratory in Chatham for processing and preservation purposes. The alternate destination was a rented vault in the basement of a nearby bank also located in Chatham.

When the transport vehicles went to the bank, the bank's manager would be telephoned in advance and he would prepare the rear entrance of the bank for our arrival. Once parked at the bank's rear entrance and satisfied there was no danger, the crew unloaded items from the vehicle and the manager would access the bank and vault entrance. Only a few key company personnel could gain access to the bank vault based on a roster of names given to the bank's manager by Clifford. Others could be signed in and escorted by cleared personnel.

Following the transfer of items to the vault, the manager, archaeologist, and I inventoried the new items. The bank kept a log and Maritime Explorations kept the archaeologist's journal with the appropriate notations of what items were left at the bank. When the process was completed, the crew and convoy left for the company laboratory a few miles down the road.

The Maritime Explorations' laboratory was a three-bay, windowless, concrete block facility, located at the end of a road in a small industrial park. The facility was discreet, with no signs to reveal the nature of its business. Each bay had its own rolling garage door entrance and a personnel entrance.

On the inside of the facility the bays were partitioned off and accessible to each other, forming separate working areas. The first bay was where the large artifacts were stored, treated, and preserved. Several water-holding tanks held the cannons to simulate the underwater environment in which they had for so long been preserved. Other smaller water tanks held different bulky items. The next bay housed another artifact area for the smaller items. In this bay the archaeologists stored their tools and restored the artifacts.

A library, cataloging all expedition artifacts, including photographs of each item, was temporarily stored in this area. Because of its importance to the expedition's inventory, the library required special security. A small, one-ton safe was purchased for information storage. When the work area was vacant, lab personnel were required to lock all data in the safe. The president, vice president, and I had the combination. Certain small, high-value items were also stored there. The safe was secured in the last bay where the operations section was located.

Company offices were located in a building adjacent to the laboratory. The company president and its small administrative staff occupied these offices. Radio communications with the boat were conducted from the building, which was a base of operations for all activity.

When new items arrived at the laboratory, they were logged into the data library and photographed for identification. Once the items were logged, photographed, and secured, regular laboratory operations of treating, processing, and preserving would resume.

The nighttime security of the laboratory required an intrusion detection system. Based on the different physical environments of each of the bays, certain sensor technologies were recommended. The large open bay, where the water-holding tanks and moveable hoists were located, necessitated a dual-technology system of passive infrared (PIR) and ultrasonic sensors.

The PIR sensors were placed in the upper corners of the bay, and their area of coverage reached to the middle of the bay. Dead spaces or areas unprotected by the PIR arose because artifacts were constantly rearranged with movable hoists. Ultrasonic sensors were recommended for placement on the ceiling to cover these areas. The PIR and ultrasonic sensors were intended to alarm separately, rather than requiring both to be triggered before an alarm would sound. Greater security was achieved with this configuration.

The two remaining bays were sufficiently secure with PIR sensor coverage. A capacitance proximity sensor was recommended for the safe. All laboratory and administrative building doors and windows were recommended to have balanced magnetic switches installed. All sensors were linked, via telephone line, to a central alarm station system with identifying alarm addresses for each bay. The police response time for an alarm annunciation was between two and seven minutes.

Improvements were recommended for area lighting outside the laboratory, including increased foot candle illumination around both buildings. Better illumination would serve as a deterrent to potential criminals and provide better detection capabilities for local police patrols. The overgrown vegetation also needed to be cleared away from the boundary fence line to prevent climb-over penetrations onto the property. The standard seven-foot chain-link fencing with barbed-wire outriggers mounted on top and a tensioned fence base wire was sufficient.

Physical security improvement recommendations to the laboratory site were reviewed by the company president and implemented over time contingent on budget limitations. The assumption of security risk to assets at the laboratory was carefully balanced with the overall expedition budget and often temporary solutions were found to manage the risk. When high-value assets were stored at the laboratory, a crew member remained at night for added security. Sometimes the crew checked the property during the night.

In addition to the physical security measures taken, standard security procedures were adopted as a guide for employees throughout all expedition areas. The written procedures were constantly improved as a result of changes in the various operations.

Maritime Explorations continues to recover objects even today. Unlike the rogues who first gathered these treasures on the high seas, however, Clifford's company was never after riches. The expedition's real motivation has been to preserve artifacts for posterity. About 20 percent of the valuables recovered, including the prize ship's bell, are now on display at a museum in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Plans are currently underway to build a second, larger museum in Tampa, Florida.

Protecting a piece of rediscovered history offered many exhilarating and memorable experiences for all involved. Through the efforts and persistence of this pioneering company and with technological tools inconceivable to the Whydah pirates, their fateful and intriguing tale lives on.

Robert F. Hoaglund, CPP, is the president of Advanced Security Training Consultants in Hudson, New Hampshire. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society for Industrial Security
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Title Annotation:history
Author:Hoaglund, Robert F.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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