If treasure hunters were fishermen, pirate-treasure hunters would be the dry-fly trout fishermen. Pirate-treasure hunters scorn any amount of wealth that was not lost as a result of piracy. If one of this select group should dredge up from the sea some silver plate that had been lost from a Spanish galleon simply because of a storm, he would be as repelled by it as a trout fisherman by an eel.
The following pages are for this select group. The sites spotted on the accompanying map and described in this article all hold promise of pirate treasure. They are, of course, by no means all of the pirate hoards still awaiting the hunter. But they do represent a selection of what should be the most fruitful areas for diving and digging, and all of them are believed to be treasures left by authentic pirates. Even the few supposedly rich stores buried or lost by such buccaneers as Morgan and his men are omitted; buccaneers were amphibious raiders, not pirates.
The search can begin almost anywhere on the east coast of North America, from Nova Scotia through the Caribbean. Let the reader be warned, however: once begun, it may take him far afield. Treasure hunting is a pastime which grips the imagination and fevers the brain. Some of the treasure mentioned here, ranging geographically from Nova Scotia's Oak Island to the Leeward and Windward Islands, is authentic and documented, though so far unfound. Other areas have already produced treasure and may produce more. A few are legendary and may be hopeless. Many of the beaches and coves have already been thoroughly combed over—which often means that the loot now lies much nearer to the surface, awaiting the next and luckiest searcher. That could be you.
The northernmost—and best-known—treasure lies at Oak Island (l), but this one needs an engineering genius or a million dollars (or both) to be dug up. It will be discussed in detail later. A little to the south of it, the coast of Maine (2) has long been a treasure-hunting area. Dixie Bull, the first pirate in New England, frequented these waters. Coins and silver have been found in many coves and bays, notably in Casco Bay, on Jewell Island and others. Local residents are the best guides to likely hunting grounds.
Off Portsmouth, N.H. (3), lies a little cluster of islands which should still conceal some pirate treasure. One of the islands, however, is haunted.
The story of the treasure is as hazy as that of the ghost. It is said that one of Blackbeard's lieutenants, wandering away from the rest of the fleet, crossed the Atlantic, anchored in a cove along the coast of Scotland, rowed ashore and returned on board with a beautiful young woman. The pirate ship's course was set for New England, and the anchor was finally dropped off White Island, the southernmost of the Isles of Shoals. They had just buried some treasure when a sail was sighted bearing down on the islands. Black-beard's lieutenant put his young lady ashore, told her to guard the treasure and put out to investigate the strange vessel. It proved to be a warship, and, in the battle which followed, the pirate ship was sunk. No one escaped alive.
Since then the young girl has dutifully kept her vigil, in life and in death. They say you can still see her walking along the rocky shore, on moonlit nights, of course. She wears a long sea cloak, and her blonde hair, uncovered, floats behind her as she looks out across the sea to the spot where the pirate ship went down more than two centuries ago. And she would be sure to haunt anyone who tried to dig up the treasure her lover told her to guard.
Personally, I doubt this story, because it is difficult to imagine any lieutenant of Blackbeard getting away from the fleet like that. However, White Island is a beautiful place to dig, and the sight of the blonde ghost would be worth a lot more than whatever gold and silver might be buried there. The chances of finding her and the treasure are, I should say, about equal.
A more likely digging place on the Isles of Shoals—and one that has been dug up a great deal more—is Star Island. Here is supposed to be the treasure left by Pirate John Quelch and his men. Quelch became a pirate by the simple process of taking the ship away from his captain and setting out with it "on account." He and his followers apparently did very well along the Spanish Main, wreaking havoc especially among a number of Portuguese ships, and they shortly found themselves so overloaded that they had to get rid of some of the stuff for a while. So Quelch went to Star Island and rowed some of the treasure ashore.
A few of his men, however, had been celebrating too much the night before on the mainland, probably in Portsmouth, and had revealed their plans. A sea-going posse took off after them. It located Quelch and his crew on the shore at Star Island.