10 Lost Treasures in America Waiting to be Found

Captain Kidd welcomes guests aboard while in New York harbor. Library of Congress

Kidd’s Treasure

In recent years there has been an ongoing expedition to recover the treasure and other artifacts from the wreck of the Adventure Galley near Madagascar. Adventure Galley was the ship used by William Kidd when he decided to quit hunting pirates and become one himself. Before he did (if he did, some believe that he was never a pirate at all) William Kidd was a well-connected gentleman in the colony of New York. He lived in a well-appointed home on Pearl Street. He was one of the gentlemen of New York who worked to raise the funds to build Trinity Church. As a privateer he was involved in several actions against the French.

His success as a privateer led him to being appointed to command an expedition against the pirates who were regularly raiding the ships of London’s merchants, as well as any French vessels. Whether Kidd himself acted as a pirate on the subsequent voyage or was forced to allow his crew – under threat to his life – to practice piracy remains a subject of debate. What is known is that several vessels were seized and destroyed after being plundered by Kidd’s crew. One vessel, an East Indiamen named the Quedagh Merchant, was kept by Kidd and renamed Adventure Prize. It was in this vessel that Kidd attempted to return to New York, the Adventure Galley no longer being seaworthy.

Much of the plunder was in the hold of the Adventure Prize when Kidd learned that he was being sought as a pirate, and with only 13 of his crew remaining loyal to him, the rest remaining in the area of Madagascar in other ships, he went instead to the Caribbean. There he purchased a small sloop, fenced as much of the plunder as he could, and then set sail for New York. He stopped at Gardiner’s Island to bury some of the money he received for the goods he had sold. He then sailed all the way around Long Island, stopping on the island at several locations, as well as going ashore on Block Island and in Connecticut.

Once in New York Kidd was arrested, held for over a year, and then sent to England for trial for both piracy and murder. He was convicted and an attempt to negotiate by revealing the cache of money hidden on Gardiner’s Island backfired when it was instead used as evidence against him. The amount of money was small compared to what Kidd had obtained in the Caribbean. None of the rest of the treasure was found, having failed once, Kidd kept his mouth shut regarding the rest of his treasure. He was hanged in London, the rope broke, and he was forced to re-ascend the gallows to be hanged a second time.

Ever since areas of Connecticut, Oak Island, Gardiner’s Island and the rest of Long Island’s Suffolk County, and other locales in and around Long Island and Block Island Sound have been searched for the rest of Kidd’s treasure. The Adventure Prize was found in relatively shallow waters near the Dominican Republic in 2007. It yielded some artifacts including cannon, but no treasure. Wherever he left the money he obtained in the Caribbean on his way back to New York it is likely that it remains there still. How much money is there is subject to debate, as is the fact or fiction of William Kidd’s legendary career as a pirate.