Treasure Hunter Finds 17th-Century Cutlass In Pirate Shipwreck


Painting of Blackbeard, one of the most feared pirates of the "golden age". By G Ferris, 1920. Public Domain.

Before Ted Cruz and "space pirates", there were pirates of the seafaring kind.

Piracy is an alternative career choice that has existed since the Ancient Greeks but entered something of a "golden age" in the 1600s and 1700s, when parts of Europe embarked on a centuries-long project to subjugate and conquer large chunks of the world.


According to the Royal Museum of Greenwich, some 5,000 pirates roamed the seas at that time. Today, their legacy lives in the form of the various shipwrecks that litter the ocean floor. One of those shipwrecks is that of The Schiedam, a Dutch merchant ship that found a final resting place at Dollar Cove in Cornwall, UK, 335 years ago. 

On Sunday, local media reports reveal a treasure hunter called Robert Felce found the remains of a sword at the site, close to the ship's gulley. The broken artifact was discovered in three pieces and was almost entirely covered in sand.

Age and exposure to the elements have damaged the sword and the vast majority of the blade has been corroded or is missing. Still, there is enough of the original blade to work out an approximate width of the weapon (5 centimeters, or two inches) and its shape close to the hilt.

"I think it is probably a cutlass," Felce told Cornwall Live. "They were regarded as the sword of choice by sailors in the 1600s. They had a single cutting edge with a slightly curved blade which tends to match what we see in the recovered piece."


He went on to say that the length of the blade from hilt to tip was likely no bigger than 60 centimeters (24 inches). 

This is not the first time Felce got lucky on Mount’s Bay. He uncovered a hand grenade in March – and two more the previous year. All from the same ship, The Schiedam.

Although The Schiedam started life as a merchant ship for the Dutch East India Company, it was commandeered by Barbary pirates (or corsairs) close to the Gibraltar coast in August 1683. But the pirates didn't hold it for long. The ship was soon captured by members of the British Royal Navy. Its contents were sold at Cadiz and The Schiedam was taken to a colony in Tangier, Morocco, where it took on a new purpose – that of a transport vessel.

When the Tangier colony was dumped, the ship set sail for England carrying horses and machinery. Unfortunately, it never reached its destination. Caught in a gale, it wrecked close to the Cornwall coast.


"Nothing more was heard about the ship until 1971 when it was exposed on the sea bed, spotted by diver Anthony Randall and recorded, before again disappearing under sand," Felce explained.

"The site of the wreck was subsequently designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 and has occasionally produced items washed ashore."

You can see pictures of the wreck at Cornwall Live.

[H/T: Cornwall Live


  • tag
  • shipwreck,

  • history,

  • sword,

  • pirate,

  • privateer,

  • bucaneer,

  • barbary,

  • piracty,

  • cutless