recess radio program

09/05/06
Captain Kidd's Treasure
    by Kevin Shortsleeve

What child playing in the sand has not fantasized about digging down with a spade and "thud" - encountering a sea chest containing a hoard of doubloons? Since the publications of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island and Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer, finding lost pirate treasure has become one of the ultimate fantasies of childhood. And how tantalizing to learn that, indeed - there may yet be lost treasure to be discovered on the Cape and Islands.

There are many pirate stories about this legendary sandy hook that reaches out into the sea. There is the tale of the Blue Rock pirates of Chappaquiddick, for example, and Barry Clifford's amazing find, the pirate ship Whydah discovered off Wellfleet in the 1980s. But perhaps no legend is more tantalizing than the lost treasure chest of Captain Kidd. Kidd, whose guilt has never been proven, was arrested in Boston in 1700 and charged with piracy. He was eventually hauled back to England to stand trial. Three hundred years ago, in 1701 - Kidd was hanged in the Tower of London for his supposed crimes. The story goes, however, that before arriving in Boston, Kidd was tipped off that he was in danger. So before setting in to port, he reportedly found a quiet little island off the coast and stashed his treasure away to be dug up again at a later date. But Kidd never made it back.

One local legend relates the tale of a mysterious stranger who arrived in the Elizabeth Islands about seventy years after Kidd's death. He was an old sailor, and he said that he had sailed with Captain Kidd as a young lad and that he had personally assisted in burying the treasure on Nomansland Island, just south of Gay Head. The rickety old sailor attempted to draw out a map - but died before he finished the document. Residents of Robinson's Hole, where the man died, set out to find the treasure. But it never turned up.

Between 1941 and 1945, the Navy used Nomansland for target practice and the question arises, Was the treasure perhaps blown to smithereens and sunk to Davy Jones' Locker? There are, of course, other versions to this tale. Some have said that Kidd buried his Treasure on Hogg Island in Pleasant Bay on a bluff known as Money Head. And, in fact, all up and down the Eastern seaboard, other small islands have claimed that their shore is the resting-place of Kidd's hoard. Much attention has been paid to Gardiners Island, off the coast of Long Island, where a small amount of treasure turned up in the 1700s. On the other hand, with the yo ho ho of the southwest wind that pushes about the sand dunes of our shores - it could very well be - that here on the Cape and Islands - someday, a lucky child playing with a spade in the sand, may dig down and hear, "thud".

Copyright 2006 Kevin Shortsleeve

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Monday, 02-Oct-2006 13:13:24 EDT


"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."