History's Greatest Mysteries (2020) s04e08 Episode Script

Blackbeard's Lost Treasure

Tonight, a pirate treasure
worth millions.
Blackbeard looted
dozens of ships
and was able
to walk away scot free.
And it’s still missing,
despite centuries of searching.
We know where he attacked ships,
where he hung out,
where he stopped for a time,
but in none of these places
has Blackbeard’s treasure
been found.
Now, we unearth the top theories
around this legendary orb.
Blackbeard goes
from public enemy number one
to best friends
with the governor overnight.
All of Blackbeard’s treasure
now it’s somewhere
at the bottom of the ocean.
Many of Blackbeard’s
former crew members
believed that Blackbeard
had made a deal with the devil.
What really became
of Blackbeard’s lost treasure,
and where could it be?
November 21st, 1996,
Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina,
a dive team led by historian
Phil Masters
is attempting to find
a lost, centuries old treasure.
Diver to surface.
Diver to surface.
The dive team is looking
for a very specific pirate ship,
which may have been
the most notorious
pirate vessel of all time.
The ship is called
the "Queen Anne’s Revenge,"
and it was helmed by
the notorious pirate Blackbeard.
Blackbeard is probably
the most famous pirate
ever to live,
even though his actual
pirate career
was quite short
in comparison to others.
He was most active
between 1717 and 1718,
during the golden age of piracy.
Blackbeard is one
of the best known figures
of colonial American history.
But today, 300 years later,
we really don’t know much
about his identity,
origins, or even motivations
for becoming a pirate.
There’s a lot
of questions and mysteries
about Blackbeard’s background,
the first of which
is his own name.
There’s a few different accounts
that spell it differently.
In the majority
of the official records,
his name was written
as Edward Thatch,
uh, which has since
become Teach.
Other people said
he was a Captain Drummond.
Somebody interpreted
the wording in a later document
to believe that his last name
was Kentish.
The fact is,
there were many pirates
who actually went by aliases.
So his identity
and his real name
are very much in doubt today.
Much like his name,
Blackbeard’s early life
is unknown.
The first time
we hear about Blackbeard
is about 1716,
and this is when he was
sailing under the pirate
Benjamin Hornigold,
and Blackbeard
was Hornigold’s protégé
and became Hornigold’s
second in command.
Less than a year
later, Hornigold promotes
Blackbeard to captain
of a small sloop in his fleet,
with a crew of 70 men.
How does a man become
the captain of a sloop?
First of all,
he almost certainly
would have been better educated
than most of the men
that he was with.
He was able to read and write.
He was able to navigate.
These were not characteristics
that were common
among most men at that time.
Benjamin Hornigold
and Blackbeard,
the two of them as pirates,
are sailing up and down
the American Eastern seaboard.
They were wreaking havoc against
a lot of merchant ships,
and they’re especially active
between the Carolinas
and down to Cuba,
and that’s because there’s a lot
of major trading routes.
They’re looking
for things they can sell,
like textiles, spices,
different types of alcohol,
such as wine and rum,
anything they could sell
at a high price.
And coming out of the Caribbean,
where so much of this
is being traded,
it’s ripe for the picking.
Despite their success,
Blackbeard and Hornigold
are soon at odds
with each other.
and Benjamin Hornigold
had some philosophical
about how to conduct piracy
and really what it meant
to be a pirate.
Benjamin Hornigold,
did not want to attack
British shipping.
But, of course,
that means that his men
lost out on lots
and lots of plunder.
It upset a lot of the men
in Hornigold’s crew.
Blackbeard, on the other hand,
he’s more gung-ho.
He wants to rob any ship,
he’s indiscriminate
about who he attacks,
and so he wants more
of that freedom
to be able to really
hit other ships hard.
By 1717, Hornigold
is forced to retire,
and Blackbeard is declared
head of the fleet.
He immediately sets out
to make a name for himself.
Blackbeard projects
this fearsome image, right?
He’s this big, bold person.
He wears dark clothes,
he’s got the dark crazy hair,
the big black beard.
The whole point
was to be terrifying.
Blackbeard knew
he was gaining a reputation
very quickly
because of his looks,
and he began to capitalize
on it in a way.
If you’re a sailor or a Navy man
and you see this crazy man
coming at you,
you are gonna give up
your ship right away.
By late November,
1717, Blackbeard commands
three ships
with nearly 200 crewmen,
the "Queen Anne’s Revenge".
At the height
of Blackbeard’s power,
he had more men,
more guns and more ships
than any other
pirate captain sailing.
So with this heavily armed
fleet of ships
that he has,
including his flagship,
the "Queen Anne’s Revenge,"
Blackbeard is
basically unstoppable.
During this period,
Blackbeard was
an amazingly successful pirate.
He’s captured,
you know, dozens of vessels
as they were approaching
major east coast ports
and is raiding
almost all the shipping
trying to go in and out
of the Caribbean.
In late May and early June,
Blackbeard eventually
makes his way north,
and blockades the port
of Charleston.
He besieges the harbor
of Charleston for a week.
Ships coming in and out,
he would intercept them.
He he actually holds Charleston
for for ransom,
and they pay it.
Blackbeard’s success
doesn’t go unnoticed.
Blackbeard is becoming
a lot more famous,
which means a lot
more authorities are starting
to look for him
in various places.
At the time,
the pirates were that powerful,
that numerous
and that dangerous.
So the king had decided
the only way
to defeat the pirates was
to divide and conquer them.
Or, in the case of Blackbeard,
to send a privateer named
Woodes Rogers to capture him.
When Blackbeard was blockading
the port of Charleston,
one of the residents
informed him that Woods Rogers
had departed England
and was on his way
to the Bahamas
to become the governor
to break up this pirate republic
that had been established.
I think Blackbeard knew
Woods Rogers was after him,
and so he goes up
at Topsail Inlet,
which is today Beaufort Inlet,
presumably to fight
a well-armed enemy,
and he hits a shoal
and runs aground.
Another of Blackbeard’s ships,
the "Adventure",
comes to his aid,
but it’s too late.
This is pretty bad
for Blackbeard.
It is more than likely
most of the loot,
most of the real valuable goods,
especially if it’s
Blackbeard’s flagship,
were stored
on the "Queen Anne’s Revenge."
At this point,
Blackbeard’s treasure
is estimated to be
tens of millions of dollars.
His own ledger reads
about twelve and a half,
but it’s incomplete,
suggesting that there’s
possibly more
where that came from.
So this leads to the question
What happened to the treasure?
The most logical place
to look would be
at its last known location,
on his ship,
the "Queen Anne’s Revenge."
Despite knowing
the general location
of the wreck,
no one is able to find
the "Queen Anne’s Revenge."
Once the ship is abandoned,
it probably wouldn’t take long
for it to start falling apart.
It was already
in pretty bad shape,
and it’s relatively warm water,
so any wood that’s exposed
is going to be eaten
by the teredo shipworms.
And I would say within
a year you might not see
much of it above water,
and, within ten years,
you wouldn’t even know
it was there.
Then, in 1987,
obsessed treasure hunter
Phil Masters
starts a new mission
to find Blackbeard’s flagship.
Phil Masters has had
success in this inlet before,
finding other treasure wrecks.
And since we know
that Blackbeard’s ship
went down in around
the same spot,
Masters assumes this is
a good place to look for it.
Finally, on November 21st, 1996,
he located it.
This discovery is a huge deal.
It makes international news.
It’s been 278 years that people
have been looking for this ship,
so discovering it means
we might actually
have some insight
into the treasure
that Blackbeard actually had.
The excavation
efforts start in 1997.
Once the the wreck was found,
then it was up
to the archaeologist
to come in, grid off
the whole area,
and to tediously go
through each square that had
been marked off,
dredging the sand up
and running it through
screen after screen.
Soon, they begin
bringing up incredible objects.
This is amazing.
There’s just stuff everywhere.
We’re finding
all kinds of weaponry.
At least 40 cannons,
uh, 20 have been pulled up.
We found grenades,
medical instruments,
side plates for guns,
the plates that they ate off.
It’s a treasure trove
of that time period.
What they don’t find
is Blackbeard’s treasure.
So even though there’s
no gold doubloons
or jeweled cups
or anything like that,
it is a treasure
of historical artifacts.
Still, the team believes
they’re on the right track.
There has been a small amount
of gold dust or small nuggets
of gold that have
been recovered archaeologically
from the wreck
of the "Queen Anne’s Revenge."
And there may still yet be
a chest of gold
or silver or jewels.
The archeology
on the "Queen Anne’s Revenge"
has recovered roughly half
of what we we think
is down there,
but it’s going to take
a while to get it done.
If Blackbeard had
the large amount of valuables
and loot and plunder,
doesn’t appear to have
been left
on the "Queen Anne’s Revenge."
But would Blackbeard take off
and leave the treasure behind?
I don’t think that makes sense.
When notorious pirate
Blackbeard crashes off
the coast of modern-day
North Carolina
in June 1718, a mystery begins.
So what happens to all
of Blackbeard’s treasure?
This is one
of the really big mysteries
about him, because
we really have no idea.
The most logical place
for Blackbeard’s treasure
would be its last known place,
which, of course,
was on his ship,
the "Queen Anne’s Revenge."
When the announcement came
that the "Queen Anne’s Revenge"
had been located, it was huge.
Everybody’s interested
in Blackbeard’s Flagship.
Unfortunately, no hoard is found
amid the wreckage
of the "Queen Anne’s Revenge."
But evidence suggests
Blackbeard’s vessel
didn’t sink immediately
after running aground.
That gave Blackbeard
about a week to ten days
to get everybody off
the "Queen Anne’s Revenge,"
and then he could put
a salvage crew aboard
so that they could recover
anything of value
that they wanted to retain.
Could Blackbeard
have moved his loot?
Of course, in 1718
there were no banks.
There were no place
to to put your money,
uh, or your gold
if you had accumulated it.
And it absolutely makes sense
that it might
have been hidden somewhere,
hoping that they would be able
to go back and retrieve it.
Shortly after wrecking his ship,
Blackbeard surrenders,
taking advantage
of a new legal policy.
The pirates were that dangerous.
There were so many of them
that the King
was willing to issue a pardon
that would absolve
any pirate who took it
from all of their crimes,
and they would be able
to keep their treasure
and go peacefully
into retirement.
On September 5th,
1717, England’s King George I
makes a royal decree.
The terms are,
"If you stop plundering
and turn yourself in,
we’ll stop hunting you."
And many pirates
take him up on the deal.
Generally, if a pirate is going
to get captured,
they will be put on trial
and they will hang.
That is almost guaranteed.
So a pardon will allow a pirate
to survive
and also keep their goods.
It takes Blackbeard
a while to come around,
but once he wrecks his flagship,
the "Queen Anne’s Revenge,"
he decides the pardon
is the best option.
Once he officially retires,
Blackbeard moves
to Bath, North Carolina.
While the "Queen Anne’s Revenge"
is unsalvageable,
he’s allowed
to keep his smaller ship,
The "Adventure,"
for his own personal use.
Blackbeard arrived
in Bath in July of 1718
and bought a fine house
where he would host
these grand parties
and invite his neighbors
and the plantation owners.
He lives
at a place called Plum Point,
oddly enough, right next door
to the Governor, Charles Eden.
The house hasn’t survived,
but the site
makes headlines in 1928.
It was around Christmas time
of 1928,
and all of a sudden,
newspapers all across
the country
were reporting that Blackbeard’s
famous pirate treasure
had been found.
The story is originally
attributed to two fur trappers.
North Carolina at that time was
very overgrown,
a real wilderness.
It would have
been perfect for fur trapping.
The fur trappers
came upon a hole
that was about eight feet deep,
covered with lots of trees
and branches and leaves,
that sort of thing.
They go down to investigate,
and they discover down
at the very bottom
there’s this brick vault
sitting there.
At first, the fur trappers think
this might have been
part of a foundation,
but then,
upon closer inspection,
they saw that the bricks
were a lot of different
shapes and sizes, suggesting
that they were hand-made.
And they’d been stuck
together with a lot of mortar,
more than would
be used for a house.
And in that mortar,
there was an indentation,
the remnants of what
very much looked
like an old sea chest.
The trappers thought
about, "Who would need
to bury a chest here
in such a great hurry?"
I mean, Blackbeard is really
the only choice.
But the sea chest is gone.
The trappers estimate the chest
would have been
about 40 inches wide
and 30 inches deep.
The trunk itself would have been
a large wooden object.
It would have had
a heavy lid on it,
and it probably
would have belonged
to Blackbeard or maybe
one of the other sailors
on his ships,
because every sailor,
including a pirate,
had their own personalized trunk
where they could keep their own
special goods and treasure.
Searching nearby,
the trappers find more clues.
Right next to the hole,
these two fur trappers
found a tripod and a pulley,
but they also found
an indentation in the sand
that appeared
to run right down to the beach.
And, in fact,
the fur trappers did describe
that they had seen footprints,
and they had seen
some disturbed earth
and disturbed foliage.
It could have been
that the fur trappers
may have just missed the people
who had taken the trunk away.
the trail of evidence
stops at the water.
This raises so many questions.
Was this Blackbeard’s
long lost treasure?
Who dug the hole?
What did they find?
Where did they take
what they found?
But, to me, the biggest question
of all is,
how did these people
know where to dig?
By 1928, people had been digging
all over this property
for hundreds of years,
and this didn’t seem
like a lucky find.
They dug one hole,
and they seemed to have
brought the exact
right tools they would
have needed to dig this hole.
People in this region
passed down
all sorts of stories
about Blackbeard.
Maybe someone actually
had some information
about where he had hidden
his treasure.
And then, on the other hand,
maybe Blackbeard decided
to leave a treasure map behind.
Maybe, in this case,
X actually did mark the spot.
The trappers were unnamed.
Obviously, the thieves
are unnamed.
We don’t have any more
information about this hole
other than from this one
newspaper article.
And it’s led
some people to wonder
if these fur trappers
were even real,
or was it something
that the newspaper decided
to print for fun
in order to get sales,
maybe capitalize
on a local legend.
So this also creates
an even larger mystery
behind what was going on in 1928
around Blackbeard’s former home.
If the story is fiction,
it may have
a well-known inspiration.
Well, certainly,
Robert Lewis Stevenson
had a great impact
on the public’s perception
and interest in pirate treasure
with the publication
of of "Treasure Island."
We all think that all pirates
bury their treasure,
but actually,
there is almost no record
of any pirate burying treasures.
But no matter
how much I have learned
about piracy,
when I think pirates,
I think of buried treasure,
I think of peg legs,
I think of hooks.
Other theorists
believe the trapper’s tale
is partially true.
It’s certainly possible that
Blackbeard buried some treasure.
What’s unlikely
is that he buried
all of his treasure in one spot.
It’s more likely
that he would have
spread it out
over multiple locations.
Blackbeard would do
this to reduce risk
or just because
it’s more practical to have
a little bit in a lot
of different places.
A single chest, 30X40 inches,
can hold a lot of loot, right?
You know, you’ve got
silver and gold,
but it’s not nearly enough
to hold everything
the Blackbeard had.
There’s definitely
more treasure out there.
And it seems like
if somebody was able
to find this treasure,
other people might be
able to find the rest.
his two year reign of terror
along the Atlantic coast,
virtually no port is
safe from Blackbeard
and his pirate crew.
Blackbeard’s most famous
territory was the Bahamas,
the Virgin Islands,
and the Carolinas.
But there’s evidence to suggest
he went as far south
as South America
and as far north
as New Hampshire.
If we’re trying to think
of different places
that Blackbeard may have
buried his treasure,
there are loads
of different possibilities.
People think
that Blackbeard traveled
around with all
of his treasures, and I think
we get this idea from movies
like "The Goonies"
and "Treasure Island,"
where there’s just piles
of gold and jewels,
but if you think about it,
that’s not practical.
Part of the problem with this is
gold is very, very heavy.
A box that’s 2X2X2 would
be eight cubic feet of gold,
would actually weigh
about 9,500 pounds.
He needed his ships to be light
so he could attack other ships
and avoid being
attacked himself.
He needed to make room
for his men
and for supplies
and for weaponry.
And we know even
that when he would
attack other ships,
he wouldn’t take everything.
He would pick and choose
what he wanted
and leave the rest.
If Blackbeard
is really successful
in several of his captures
and had a huge haul of loot,
odds are he’s going
somewhere safe to offload it.
According to historian
Robert Cahill, it could
be a place no one would
ever think to look.
In 1980, Robert Cahill published
a book called
"Pirates and Lost Treasures."
In that book,
he suggests that while
most people were looking
for Blackbeard’s treasure
in the Caribbean or along
the coast of Carolina,
he thinks that Blackbeard
may have hidden
some of his treasure about 600
miles further to the north,
as far north
as the coasts of Maine
and New Hampshire,
where we find a series
of islands
called the Isles of Shoals.
The Isles of Shoals
are what they sound like.
They’re rocky shoals
jutting out of the water
between New Hampshire and Maine.
It was mainly used
with the cod fisheries,
but there were folks that also
dabbled in piracy as well.
So you had a lot
of illicit behavior going on.
Cahill focuses
on the Isle of Shoals because,
as a local historian,
he’s found accounts
of Blackbeard and his crew
frequenting a tavern
on the islands.
It’s amazing how many places
have been suggested
for Blackbeard’s treasure,
but the Isle of Shoals
makes more sense
than some of the others
because it’s one
of those places that matches
sort of what the pirates
were looking for
in a lair or a hideout.
The kind of place
where you might lay low.
Maybe nobody will notice you.
Maybe you can offload treasures.
The Isle of Shoals
are made up of three islands,
and in the middle is this
dumbbell-shaped Lunging Island.
And this is referred to
as the Pirate Bank.
And the reason for this
is because its location
is really safe, sandwiched in
between these other islands.
It’s got very rocky coastlines,
and it’s the perfect place
to go if you need to hide
yourself, your ship,
or offload goods,
because it’s unlikely
people will be able
to either find it
or sail in there safely.
Over the years, several teams
of scientists
and treasure hunters
search Lunging Island.
It’s rumored that
in Blackbeard’s time,
there was a cave
on the eastern end
of this island,
and if that’s true,
it would have been
a perfect place for Blackbeard
to hide his treasure.
But, today,
that cave is not there.
According to Prudy Randall,
who owns the only house
on the island,
she believes that the cave
may have been hidden away
after centuries
of shifting sands and tides.
Randall says that shortly
after World War II,
a plane from the American
government flew overhead
and spotted the cave
using sonar.
A few years later, a man
from a quarrying company
came out and did some tests,
indicating that a cave
may exist under the rock.
But it appears there was
no further follow up
to either of these
two investigations.
In 2001, a team
from Hager-richter Geoscience
picks up the search.
Their first order
of business is to use
a ground-penetrating radar
to look for evidence
of a cave or really anything
buried underneath the ground.
Ground penetrating
radar doesn’t take
the place of digging,
but it does make
your digging
a lot more efficient.
their initial findings
are inconclusive.
But that doesn’t stop them.
They hire a big
barge-mounted drill
from Rockland, Maine,
and they dig
a bunch of test holes
into the rock.
But they only find more rock.
The chance of finding
a single collapsed cave
is really one in a million.
It’s a needle
in a haystack situation.
Like many treasure hunters,
eventually you run
out of time and money,
and then if you’re
not getting any return,
you have to pull the plug.
Some suggest the Geoscience team
is looking on the wrong island.
Just because Blackbeard drank
on Lunging Island
doesn’t mean he buried
his treasure there.
I mean, wouldn’t it make
more sense for him
to pick one of the other
Isles of Shoals,
where there
would be more secrecy?
Cahill believes
that Blackbeard may have
a connection to other islands
in the chain.
According to legend,
after he retired in 1718,
Blackbeard married a woman
in North Carolina.
It was the governor, Eden,
that oversaw the ceremony.
Then he spent his honeymoon
on an island
called Smuttynose.
Maybe the trip up north
for the honeymoon
was also a chance
to get some stash,
spending money
for the new couple.
There’s one other island
in the Isle of Shoals
that makes
an interesting contender.
Though there’s
no evidence of buried treasure
on Smuttynose
or Lunging Islands,
Star Island does have a history
of pirate plunder.
John Quelch was
a pirate about ten years
before Blackbeard
was really active.
He oversaw a mutiny
on board his merchant ship,
and then the crew elected him
to be their captain.
They sailed down
to the coast of Brazil,
where he captured
nine or ten pirate ships,
and made a good amount of money.
At that point, they sailed north
up to Star Island,
where, reportedly,
he buried some of his treasure.
Now, this was
just a myth, a story.
Nobody really knew about this
until the 1800s.
Then some people found
gold inside a wall,
and thanks to the dates
on those coins,
they believe that it may
have been Quelch’s gold.
Could Blackbeard’s
treasure also be hidden here?
There’s so many legends
and possible locations,
but the Isles of Shoals
has been one of the most
persistent ones.
The problem is
that the Isle of Shoals
are solid granite rocks,
so this doesn’t
make a lot of sense
as a place
to secure your valuables.
It would make a very
bad safety deposit box.
It’s really hard
to dig holes there.
You need miners
to help you do it.
These pirates,
I mean, they’re sailors.
They’re not engineers.
Well, let’s remember
what the technology
in the XVIII century was like.
It’s nowhere near what we have.
I suppose you could use
black powder,
but to do
any effective blasting,
you really gotta know
what you’re doing.
And the idea of these pirates
could somehow secrete
this vast treasure
that we can’t find now.
I find that difficult
to believe.
Still, the legend
of Blackbeard’s treasure
remains tied to these
islands for centuries.
And some locals say he left
something else behind as well.
Legend has it
he left his wife there
to guard the treasure, and he
would come back and visit.
He would come
and go and come and go,
and one day, he never came back.
And the locals say her ghost
haunts the isles to this day.
I just would have to think
there’s gotta be a better way
to hide your treasure.
But, again,
if Blackbeard’s treasure
is found on the Isle of Shoals,
I will be the first one
to say how wrong I was
in believing
that this would never happen.
In the search
for Blackbeard’s treasure,
many hunters focus
on his whereabouts
during retirement.
But the pirate’s retirement
is a matter of a few mere weeks.
Before long,
he’s back on the high seas
and in a new ship.
You might ask yourself,
why was this fearsome pirate,
who stole millions of dollars,
looted dozens of ships,
blockaded entire towns,
able to walk away scot free?
To understand that,
you have to look
at the overall
political situation
in Europe in the early 1700s.
During this era,
European powers
are competing to control
the astonishing
wealth of the New World.
You had a lot
of commerce going on.
These colonies
are being exploited
and there is
a lot of raw material
coming out of those colonies.
You had colonial Americans
sending out material
to Europe, and you have
the Spanish colonies
in the Caribbean and Mexico
and South America
shipping out a lot
of gold and silver
back across to to Europe.
When Europe moves
into armed conflict,
leaders hurry to enlist men
like Blackbeard
to seize their enemies’ loot.
He and many others
enroll as privateers.
What’s the difference between
privateering and piracy?
Well, a privateer
was somebody who was
given permission
to be a maritime mercenary
by their king or queen
or government.
They have a contract
called a letter of marque,
which basically states
you are fighting against ships
from these specific countries,
and in payment,
they were allowed
to keep 80% of all the goods
they could steal
and the other 20%
goes back to the government.
Essentially, Blackbeard
was given permission
to go out and attack
enemy shipping,
and they could keep a portion
of the plunder.
North Carolina’s
Governor, Charles Eden,
allows Blackbeard to take
his remaining ship,
the "Adventure," and return
to a life on the sea.
But within weeks,
he sheds his privateer status
and begins attacking
English vessels.
Blackbeard is
once again a pirate.
When Blackbeard
decides to leave North Carolina
in August of 1718,
he knows he’s probably
not going back.
He’s decided to go back
to a life of piracy,
despite having taken the pardon.
It might be that at this point
he feels like
he has nothing to lose
and he probably
figures he might as well
go back to piracy
and do everything he can before
he’s inevitably
going to get caught.
When you look at the story
of the big empty hole
on Plum Point, you have
to wonder, is it possible
Blackbeard dug up
the treasure himself?
I mean, we know he was
going back and forth
between his home in Bath
and the boat,
so is it possible
that he was getting
the treasure and loading up
the ship himself?
Whatever survives
from his original haul,
Blackbeard wastes no time
adding to his fortune.
Almost immediately, he captures
two French ships,
and in the meantime,
news of his exploits
going back into piracy
have traveled
around the Caribbean
and the American colonies
as well.
the Governor of Virginia
decides to take matters
into his own hands.
Now, Alexander Spotswood,
he has made it his mission
as a governor
to eradicate piracy
in any way whatsoever.
In the letters
of Alexander Spotswood,
he states that
he’s very concerned
that this pirate Blackbeard
has established himself
a base at Ocracoke Island.
Obviously, having pirates
or a pirate base
just south of there would, uh,
be a direct threat
to the trade of Virginia.
So he’s going
to start putting plans
into motion to stop
Blackbeard at all costs.
Governor Spotswood
decides to commission
Lieutenant Robert Maynard
in order to try
to take down Blackbeard.
He gives him 57 men
and two ships
and is instructed, "Capture
Blackbeard, dead or alive."
Five days after departing
from Kecoughtan, Virginia,
Maynard’s fleet
confronts Blackbeard’s
at Ocracoke Inlet.
Blackbeard and Maynard
face off and Blackbeard
immediately fires a cannon
into Maynard’s ships,
obliterating one of them.
During this gunfire,
Maynard lost a number of his men
and the air filled
with clouds of smoke.
It became very confusing.
It was hard for either
of the vessels
to see each other.
They were basically adrift.
Blackbeard gets off another
broadside. Again, mayhem.
He mows down more
of the Royal Navy sailors
and they jump on board,
ready to seize control.
And that’s when
Lieutenant Maynard
unleashes his great surprise.
Maynard’s men are
all hiding below deck.
And so when Blackbeard
and his crew come on,
Lieutenant Maynard’s men
rush up to the deck
and this massive bloodbath
of a battle ensues.
Blackbeard is wounded.
He’s stabbed in the leg
by one of Maynard’s men.
And, reportedly,
Blackbeard shouts,
"Well done, lad,"
after he’s been stabbed.
And in that moment,
Robert Maynard sees
his opportunity
and he takes his sword
and he beheads Blackbeard
on the ship,
killing him once and for all.
Maynard returns
to Virginia and places
Blackbeard’s head on a spike
at the entrance
to Chesapeake Bay.
A head is a fine trophy,
but Maynard came back
without Blackbeard’s ship
or any gold.
So the question is,
what became of Blackbeard’s ship
and the treasure
that was possibly on it?
The "Adventure"
remains missing to this day,
and its absence may provide
a clue to what happened.
One of the theories is
that one of Blackbeard’s
most trusted
crew members, Caesar,
actually had plans
to scuttle the ship,
meaning to destroy it,
before anybody
could actually go capture it.
The idea is it’s better
to have all the treasure
fall down into the sea,
rather than let any of it
go into Maynards’ or any other
authorities’ hands.
Of course, it could have
been Maynard himself.
It was common practice
at the time,
after defeating an enemy,
to burn their ship.
Maybe Maynard didn’t search
the ship properly,
and that would mean that all
of Blackbeard’s treasure,
what he had dug up
from Plum Point,
now it’s somewhere
at the bottom of the ocean.
If the treasure
remains on the "Adventure,"
there’s still hope
for its recovery.
This might be
our single best chance
to find Blackbeard’s treasure.
If we can find the wreck
of the "Adventure,"
we know it’s the last place
that he was,
and there was probably
some plunder on there.
In 1989, the same company
that found
the "Queen Anne’s Revenge"
gets a permit from
the state of North Carolina
to salvage the "Adventure,"
if they can find it.
So far, they have not.
But the wreckage
is still out there.
Somebody’s probably
gonna find it eventually.
And if they do, who knows?
Maybe they’ll get rich.
Perhaps no other figure
features more prominently
in the story of Blackbeard
than North Carolina Governor
Charles Eden.
Blackbeard was in need
of the King’s pardon,
but had committed acts of piracy
after the deadline stipulated
by the pardon.
South Carolina would
not have been happy.
Since he had besieged
Charleston and Virginia,
they sure didn’t like him.
I think his options were
pretty limited at that point.
So Blackbeard goes
to Governor Charles Eden
because he knows
that Governor Eden
tends to have decent
relationships with pirates.
We don’t know if the two men
knew each other beforehand,
but after Blackbeard
receives the pardon,
their relationship
takes a strange turn.
Blackbeard’s house is right
next door to Governor Eden’s.
There are even reports
that there was a tunnel
dug between the Governor’s
house and Blackbeard’s.
When Blackbeard marries
a woman named Mary Ormond,
it’s the Governor
who oversees the ceremony.
Blackbeard and Eden seem
to be very good friends.
What is the reason for this?
Does Eden think he can
rehabilitate Blackbeard?
Is Eden star-struck by the guy
or is something else going on?
One of the most
comprehensive histories
of North Carolina
comes from Dr. Hugh Williamson,
published in 1812.
According to Hugh Williamson,
Governor Eden
is very charismatic,
he’s charming, he’s intelligent.
However, he is also sort
of covered
in this cloud of disgrace,
and this is because
of his assumed association
with one of the most
notorious pirates of all time.
Blackbeard goes from being
public enemy number one
to best friends
with the Governor overnight.
History tells us that
usually only happens
when there’s a payoff.
In other words,
hard-earned treasure
might have been given
in exchange for his freedom.
One of the basic conditions
of the pardon was that you had
to turn yourself in
by September 5th, 1718,
but you were only pardoned
for the crimes
that you committed
before January 5th of 1718,
nothing after.
But, of course, Blackbeard
committed loads of crimes
after January 5th.
his well-known blockade
of Charleston in May of 1718,
which should have been
punishable by death.
So why wasn’t it?
Blackbeard had amassed
millions of dollars
worth of goods and treasure,
and it’s very likely he brought
all of this into North Carolina,
and gave a huge chunk of it
to the Governor.
Did Blackbeard use his
wealth to buy his own pardon?
When Blackbeard
turned himself in in June,
he should have been killed,
but he wasn’t.
And maybe this explains why.
And why Blackbeard’s treasure’s
never been found.
Because he gave it up.
I mean,
if it’s your money or your life,
what are you gonna do?
And the bribes
may not have stopped there.
At one point, Blackbeard returns
to North Carolina
with a French ship
called the "Rose Emelye."
But he tells the Governor
that he just found
this ship perfectly seaworthy,
filled with plunder,
and with not a sole aboard.
At a Vice Admiralty hearing,
with the Governor present,
Blackbeard is awarded the rights
to this French vessel.
Whether or not the Governor
believed Blackbeard’s story,
how gullible do we think he is?
More likely,
he was getting to keep
a little piece
of the treasure himself.
If Eden did accept
Blackbeard’s treasure
as a bribe,
what did he do with it?
Edward Mosley was a rival
of Governor Charles Eden,
and when Mosley
kind of caught whiff
of what Charles Eden was doing
with Blackbeard,
he definitely wanted
to use that against him.
He outright accused the Governor
of deliberately colluding
with a pirate
for bad purposes,
not to help the community,
but just to help himself.
In retaliation,
Governor Eden arrests Mosley,
fines him £100,
and bars him from ever holding
any sort of public office
for the next three years.
However, after Blackbeard’s
death in battle,
a letter was found
that vindicates Mosley,
proving that everything
Mosley was accusing
Governor Eden of doing was true.
The letter is
written to Blackbeard
from Tobias Knight,
Eden’s secretary
of the Governor’s council.
In the letter to Blackbeard
in Ocracoke,
Governor Eden
wants to set up a meeting,
the purpose of which
was not known.
After Blackbeard is killed,
they actually
find a whole bunch
of his pirate plunder
from the last phase
of his career
in Tobias Knight’s barn,
hidden under a pile of hay,
which didn’t look very good.
The Governor of
Virginia, Alexander Spotswood,
really wants
to get involved in this.
He wants to arrest
Governor Eden, Tobias Knight,
and everybody responsible
of working with Blackbeard.
The problem is, being
the Governor of Virginia
means he has absolutely
no legal jurisdiction
within North Carolina,
so there’s nothing he can do.
Eden spends the next
few years trying to get
what he feels he deserves
from Governor Spotswood.
Eden claims
Spotswood’s Virginian sailors
illegally invaded North Carolina
to apprehend Blackbeard
and that any plunder
captured on the mission
belongs to him.
Eden dies in 1722.
In his will,
Eden leaves his fortune,
which might be
Blackbeard’s fortune,
to Spotswood’s political rivals.
That same year,
Governor Spotswood
was ousted from power.
This might be Blackbeard’s
last act of revenge
against the man who was
most responsible
for seeing him killed.
For 300 years,
and treasure hunters alike
have been trying to solve
the mystery
behind Blackbeard’s
missing treasure.
We know a lot
about Blackbeard’s movements
throughout his pirate career,
where he attacked ships,
where he hung out,
where he stopped for a time.
But in none of these places
has Blackbeard’s treasure
been found.
Some theorists believe
Blackbeard’s first biography
may tell us why.
Captain Charles Johnson
is the author of a book
called "A General History
of the Pirates,"
which was published in 1724,
and it was a smash hit
almost immediately,
because it’s basically
a large collection
of pirate biographies,
all of whom are
of the most famous pirates
out of the golden age of piracy.
No one has really
been able to identify
who Captain Charles Johnson was,
and some authors have said
that he was actually
a pirate himself.
So we have him
as a fairly reliable source.
Johnson interviewed a number
of Blackbeard’s former crewman
for his book
and they told him, uh
kind of a wild tale.
According to Blackbeard’s crew,
one day they noticed a stowaway.
They had no idea who he is,
they have no idea
how he got there
or even how long
he’d been with them.
Even more mysterious,
he disappears
just days after he arrives.
They haven’t docked anywhere.
He just vanishes.
The crew believe
this is no ordinary stowaway.
The crew says Blackbeard knows
he’s being hunted,
and that he’s likely to die
in the next few days.
They are convinced that stowaway
is the devil himself.
This may sound
like a silly idea,
but the crew doesn’t pull this
out of nowhere.
Blackbeard does exhibit
some very strange behavior
on his final voyage.
It was like his mind
wasn’t fully there.
He’d been saying things
about how he’d been
working with the devil.
It’s like Blackbeard
knew his death was coming,
and it was causing
a sort of madness
that nobody could explain.
One of the examples
of the madness
that Blackbeard’s crew
spoke about
was how Blackbeard took
three members of his crew,
locked them into the hold
and set it on fire.
When he does this, he says,
"Let us make a hell of our own
and see how long
we can bear it."
The men hold out
as long as they can,
but they cry out
under the intense heat
and the suffocating conditions.
Shortly after that,
some of the crew
asked Blackbeard
if his wife knew
where any of his treasure
may have been hidden.
Blackbeard told them,
"Nobody but myself
and the devil
know where it is."
After the disappearing stranger,
the unusual rituals
and the comment
about the devil,
the crew is convinced
that Blackbeard
has made a deal with the devil
to hide the treasure.
Not figuratively, literally.
According to Johnson’s book,
Blackbeard is killed
the day after
the alleged brimstone ritual.
Look, devil or not,
the crew believed
Blackbeard had a large amount
of treasure
hidden somewhere
besides his boat.
And I think that that night,
Blackbeard confirmed it.
Now, this story is
very likely embellished.
It makes for good entertainment.
It really feeds
on the rumors about Blackbeard,
the legends about Blackbeard
that are coming out
even while he’s alive.
Blackbeard is an eccentric,
and he’s been through a lot,
and he likes to put on a show.
Whether the devil story
is true or not,
it doesn’t surprise me
that towards the end
of his life,
Blackbeard has become unhinged.
My suspicion is that Blackbeard
didn’t really have
a massive treasure cache
at the end of his career.
Blackbeard had
offloaded a lot of it.
He had sold many of the goods.
He had gathered more, sold more.
What treasure
there was, probably
ended up in the families
of the crew members
that Blackbeard had sailed with.
But I think for legend makers,
it was irresistible
to have the great pirate
also have a great treasure.
I just think
it didn’t happen that way,
just because Blackbeard
was unlucky.
Who knows? Blackbeard was
the greatest pirate of his time,
and the treasure’s
gotta be somewhere.
I believe it’s out there.
Although the location
of Blackbeard’s
supposed treasure
remains unknown,
the man’s life itself
has proven quite lucrative.
It’s estimated
that the many books, films,
and adaptations of his story
have earned over $2 billion.
Not bad for two years
of work as a pirate.
I’m Laurence Fishburne.
Thank you for watching
"History’s Greatest Mysteries."
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