8 May 2015

'Pirate treasure' found in Madagascar

8:19 am on 8 May 2015

Underwater explorers in Madagascar say they have discovered treasure belonging to the notorious 17th-century Scottish pirate William Kidd.

The 50kg silver bar, said to be from the wreckage of Captain Kidd's ship.

The 50kg silver bar, said to be from the wreckage of Captain Kidd's ship. Photo: Malagasy Presidency

A 50kg silver bar was brought to shore on Thursday on the island of Sainte Marie, from what is thought to be the wreck of the Adventure Galley.

The bar was presented to Madagascar's president at a special ceremony.

US explorer Barry Clifford said he believed there were many more such bars still in the wreck.

Capt Kidd was first appointed by the British authorities to tackle piracy but later became a ruthless criminal and was executed in 1701.

The BBC reported that there was much excitement in Madagascar about the discovery and Mr Clifford's team had no doubt that the discovery is genuine.

The team believes the bar, marked with what appears to be a letter S and a letter T, has its origins in 17th-century Bolivia.

It believes the ship it has found was built in England; however, there is bound to be scepticism and calls for more proof that the bar was linked to Capt Kidd.

One option would be to take samples of wood from the ship to analyse.

The location of the ship, thought to have sunk in 1698, has been known about for many years but the silver bar was only discovered earlier this week.

Mr Clifford said that while diving in the wreck, his metal detector picked up signals but it was too muddy for him to see anything.

UK ambassador to Madagascar Timothy Smart, who attended the ceremony, said he hoped that Mr Clifford's latest discovery would raise Madagascar's profile as a tourist destination.

The plan is to exhibit the bars in a museum.

Who was Captain Kidd?

He is thought to have been born in Scotland's Greenock or the Dundee area in about 1645.

He was appointed by the Crown to tackle piracy and capture enemy French ships, but turned to piracy himself.

In 1698, he looted the Armenian ship, the Quedagh Merchant, which was apparently sailing under a French pass.

The Quedagh Merchant had been carrying satins, muslins, gold and silver.

Unfortunately for Kidd, the captain of the ship was an Englishman, and it is thought that a large amount of the cargo belonged to the British East India Company.

Capt Kidd was captured and brought back to London. He was found guilt of piracy and the murder of one of his crewmen during a row in 1697, and sentenced to death.

During his execution in Wapping in 1701, the first rope put around his neck broke, so he was strung up a second time. That rope also snapped, but the third one held.

Afterwards, his body was dipped in tar and hung by chains along the River Thames to serve as a warning to would-be pirates.

Legend had it that Capt Kidd hid much of his loot, which has prompted numerous treasure hunts around the world and inspired author Robert Louis Stevenson when writing Treasure Island.