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Recent Discoveries from Shipwrecks of Morgan, Kidd, and Unknown Privateers

Join Captain William Kidd & Sarah Bradley Cox Oort Kidd, and some of the most prosperous New Yorkers of 1696 for dinner. Enjoy the best available local ingredients, and savor delicacies from far away.

Frederick H. Hanselmann, FN ’12 will both cover the exploits of these famous privateers, as well as the contemporary techniques he used to study their lives, bringing to life this notion of piracy. As technological advances have improved, the ability to access remote depths has provided further opportunity for archaeological discovery. These advances also allow communication in real-time, maximizing the research potential on each dive.

Hanselmann has led the search for the shipwrecks of world-famous privateer - or pirate - Henry Morgan, off the mouth of the Chagres River in Panama. Morgan was one of the few privateers to survive and enjoy his ill-gotten gains. From 1664 to 1671, Morgan conducted daring raids throughout the Spanish Main, resulting in riches for he and his men and exposing the fragility of the Spanish Empire in the western hemisphere. From Campeche in Mexico to Maracaibo in Venezuela, few were safe from the broad swath of pillage Morgan cut across the Spanish landscape.

In 1670, he amassed a fleet of 36 vessels and 1,846 men, the largest fleet of privateers and pirates in the history of the Caribbean. Their target was one of the richest cities in the western hemisphere, lying in the heart of the Spanish colonies: Panama City. Morgan's subsequent sack of Panama City not only served as his crowning victory and final raid, but also dealt the blow that loosened Spain's grip on the New World. Since 2008, a team of archaeologists has been piecing together the evidence of Captain Morgan's last raid, including the search for his flagship Satisfaction and four other vessels that sank approaching the Chagres River en route to Panama City.

Kidd's home on Pearl Street, near the eastern gate to New York’s northern wall, later to become Wall Street. In later years, landfill will would extend east, removing old Pearl Street residences from the waterfront.


On 16 May 1691, Captain William Kidd married Sarah Bradley Cox Oort, an English woman in her early twenties, who had already been twice widowed and was one of the wealthiest women in New York, largely because of the inheritance from her husbands. They lived in a prominent house on Pearl street, and a Pew at Trinity Church remains named in their honor to this day.

In December 1695, Richard Coote, Earl of Bellomont, and governor of New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire at the time, asked the ‘trusty and well beloved Captain Kidd’ to attack several infamous pirates, all those who associated themselves with pirates, along with any enemy French ships. Four-fifths of the cost for the venture was paid for by noble lords, who were among the most powerful men in England. Kidd was presented with a letter of marque, signed personally by King William III of England. This letter reserved 10% of the loot for the Crown, and Henry Gilbert's The Book of Pirates suggests that the King may have fronted some of the money for the voyage himself.

On 30 January 1698, infamous now as a privateer-branded-pirate, Kidd raised French colours and took his greatest prize, an Armenian ship, the 400-ton Quedagh Merchant, which was loaded with satins, muslins, gold, silver, an incredible variety of East Indian merchandise, as well as extremely valuable silks.

After a disastrous and largely unsuccessful voyage, he abandoned the Quedagh Merchant off of the southeastern coast of Hispaniola in 1699. The ongoing investigation and identification of the ship’s remains include the interpretation of the features of the hull construction, wood sample analysis, and mass spectrometry analysis of sampled ballast stones, the results of which indicate the site being the same ship Kidd abandoned over 300 years ago.

Oftentimes, shipwrecks of privateers and pirates are difficult to identify, as is the case with three mystery ships sunken in the Gulf of Mexico. Lying at a depth of 4,300 feet off the coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico are the remains of three early 19th century shipwrecks, laden with a wide array of artifacts, from arms to tanned hides. Following discovery in 2011 and documentation in 2012, a privately-funded collaboration of federal, state, and academic institutions carried out a detailed mapping effort of the first shipwreck, Monterrey A, and recovered potentially diagnostic artifacts in 2013. This fieldwork also provided the opportunity to document two nearby shipwrecks never before investigated. The new sites, Monterey B and C, were more fully documented in 2014. The project’s multidisciplinary approach is answering questions about not only the shipwrecks themselves, but is also examining the broader context of maritime activity in the Gulf region during a time of economic expansion and political transition, as well as site formation processes in the deep ocean environment.

A new mapp of America, published by John Overton and Phillip Lea, engraved by James Moxon, 1690, courtesy of the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division.


Fritz Hanselmann, FN ’12

Frederick H. Hanselmann ("Fritz") is Research Faculty and the Chief Underwater Archaeologist and Diving Program Director with The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University. He is also the director of the center's Underwater Archaeology and Exploration Initiative. Having worked on underwater sites from a wide variety of time periods, his exploration and research ranges from submerged prehistoric deposits in springs and caves to historic shipwrecks in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the wreck of the Quedagh Merchant, abandoned by Captain Kidd in 1699 off the coast of Hispaniola. Fritz led the first-ever archaeological survey off the mouth of the Chagres River in Panama and directs the Río Chagres Maritime Landscape Study as well as the Lost Ships of Henry Morgan Project. He is one of the principal investigators of the Monterrey Shipwreck Project, exploring and investigating early 19th century shipwrecks 4,500 feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico. He is also the co-director of the Sunken Ships of Colombia project and the principal investigator of the Spring Lake Underwater Archaeology Project.

Fritz also focuses on capacity building and training for archaeologists and heritage managers in less developed countries, as well as the development of marine protected areas and underwater preserves. He is a cave and technical diver, a certified scuba instructor, a Nautical Archaeology Society Tutor, and a fellow of The Explorers Club. He has been widely featured in global print and electronic media, including documentaries, films, and programs with the National Geographic Channel, the Sundance Film Festival, the Sundance Channel, South By Southwest Film Festival, and the Travel Channel among others. Fritz regularly gives public lectures and presentations for museums, universities, and other organizations and occasionally blogs for the National Geographic Explorers Journal online.


Date: January 12, 2016

Time: 6:00 pm Reception*, 7:00 pm Program, 9:00 pm Toast & Exit

Location: Club Headquarters, 46 East 70th Street, New York, NY, 10021

Member Ticket Price: $70

Guest Ticket Price: $80

Reservation Notes:

Reservations for a catered event must be paid in advance. There are no refunds to a seated dinner. There will be no cancellations after 6:00pm Friday, January 8th.

Click here to purchase tickets online

To secure a reservation, you may also call us at 212.628.8383, or email us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

* During the reception, small groups will be arranged to view maps and related documents from the period.

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Background image photography courtesy of members Christoph Baumer, Neil Laughton, Matt Harris and Don Walsh's image of the Bathyscape Trieste