For over a year I had been on a search for the Pirate Cave connected to the most famous pirate of all, Captain Kidd. According to most of the stories, it was located somewhere on the coast of Jamestown RI. During my hunt for this cave lost to history, I had stumbled across the mention of a pirate cave in Newport also. This only made my hunt more confusing and difficult. Eventually I did rediscover the Jamestown Pirate Cave. It was an exciting moment but at the same time, I could feel the other pirate cave snickering at me from across the bay. Much like the with the Jamestown cave, it was very difficult to find anything telling me where its exact location was.
I pull out all the old topographical and nautical maps and searched every inch of the Newport coast. I consulted the historical societies archives. I asked local anglers if they knew anything about the cave. I could find nothing about the cave. The routine seemed all too familiar. Eventually the cave began to reveal a few clues as to its whereabouts. I found that it was located near Newport Neck and that it might be underwater. I also had found GPS coordinates for the cave on a geo-survey. When I plotted them on my mapping software, it showed the cave’s location was out in the middle of the bay. This was not a promising find. Eventually I put the project on the back burner.
In the late spring of 2004 I finally located the cave while doing research on a lost seaside landmark in Newport. I had been scanning through a recently discovered collection of old Newport maps when I spotted the words Pirates Cave just north of Brenton’s Point. Oddly enough this was directly across the bay from the Jamestown Pirate cave! With the excitement of a child on Christmas morning I began to do my happy dance around the office. Quickly I pulled out my calendar and made a date with the rocky cliffs of Benton’s Point for late July!
I assumed that the I would find this cave under water and came well prepared for the task at hand. I put on my snorkeling gear, jumped into Narragansett bay began a long series of deep dives up along the cliffs. Though it was summer time, the water tempeture was still on the icy side. My determination to find the second Pirate Cave aided me in bearing the painful effect of the cold ocean waters. Once I was in long enough my body adjusted, or maybe just numbed, to the bitter conditions.
Almost immediately, I found a small cave. It was barely large enough for a man to fit into and went about 10-15 feet into the cliff. At its conclusion there was a hole straight up to the surface of the cliff. Though this cave might create a wonderful spouting effect under the right conditions, I was a bit disappointed and refused to accept this as being the Pirates Cave.
The further I moved out along the cliff, the deep the water became. Each dive proved to be a challenge to find how I could go a few more feet deeper and a little bit longer with each attempt. After an hour of hard work, all I had to show for my efforts was a collection of starfish from the rocky seabed. Determined to search every inch of the cliff before giving up, I continued on. On my next dive, I made an interesting and unexpected discovery. As unusual, I plunged below facing the cliff and pivoted to face out to the bay during my resurfacing. When I turned around this time, I found I was not the only large creature in the area. Most of the sea life I had already seen made me feel monstrous in size. The fish I found behind me this time belittled me. It was a bluish gray color and at least 3-4 feet long and 3 feet high. In a panic, I rocketed to the surface like a dolphin at Sea world. I screamed out to my wingman up on the cliff to report my deep sea encounter. Local anglers ears perked with excitement as they overheard me speak of the big fish. Quickly they pulled in their lines and dropped them right on top of me. Now I not only had to worry about large fish, riptides and waves bashing me on the rocks, I had to be apprehensive of being entangled in the fishing line or snagged by a fishing lure. Concerned with becoming the catch of the day, I scrambled out of the water and up the rock face like a frightened crab. I needed a break anyway.
While lounging in the warmth of the sun, I decides consulted the locals on the cliff above. After polling each separate group, I found a man who though he might know where to look. He mentioned that there was what looked like a small cave on the south side of the cliff. As I peered over the edge, I could see the cave at the base of a three story cliff! Since I had chose to search for it during low tide, it was partially above the waterline. This would make for easy access. I leaped back into the ocean and paddled my way to cave.
The cave was about 30 or more feet deep with a mouth that was 9 feet high and 4 feet wide. The tide was coming in fast so entering the cave could be dangerous. I could see some of the larger waves crashing against the back of the cave and filling it to the ceiling. The power of these waves could easily toss a man against the rugged rock like a rag doll. Like playing a foolish game of tag with the great Poseidon, I ran into the cave to get a better look. With one eye on the surroundings and the other on the incoming waves, I proceeded to the rear of the cave. At the termination of the cave I found a large vein of calcite along the ceiling. It was about 4 feet long, 6 inches wide and protruded from the ceiling about 6 inches. As the water weathered away the stone over the centuries, it had uncovered this beautiful vein of pure calcite buried deep within the bedrock. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I spotted the mighty hand of Poseidon reaching out to tag me. Just before he could get me, I exited the cave with little time to spare.
The next week I took time to review the pictures and do a bit of research on common fish in the bay. To my surprise, I found that the fish that I had seen was a very young tuna. Though they can get quite large, they’re harmless. Tuna is one of my favorite foods, so I plan on being prepared on my next visit. Maybe in the spring of 2005 I’ll make a return visit and get a few more picture. I’ll be sure to pack an aqua-cam for better cave pictures and a nice shot of Charlie if he shows. Also, I think I might just bring alone my spear gun too so I can bag me some lunch! Sorry Charlie but a guy gets hungry after a day of exploring the ocean!
~ Strange New England
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