Obsession of the Day: Pirates/ Warriors Of The Sea
Planet earth is but a mass of water speckled by the occasional bit of land. For most of us, dipping a toe in the ocean or a fishing hook in the sea is enough to satisfy our craving for exploration. But then, there are pirates. Warriors of the open water answering to the laws of nature, adhering to the tide. Today, I shall attempt to follow them, their unorthodox ways and nautical directions into a land I otherwise would not know. Presenting pirates – – – my obsession of the day.
Pirates: Fearless Voyagers, Maritime Thieves or Both?
In order to be considered a pirate today or anytime in the past, one must engage in criminal conduct while along the open water. Due to the mysterious nature of nautical journeys, theft at sea is almost always at an all-time high. Still it is arguable to say in the least, that the rules when navigating a maritime adventure are simple, there are no rules. Look at it this way, the Golden Age of Piracy was a time of sheer mayhem when there was a huge difference between what was legal and what was humane. Certainly things like murder, torture, theft and even piracy appeared to be both legal and illegal at the same time. How so? Well, it all depended on who you were murdering, torturing, stealing from or pirating, with the hierarchy ever leaning in favor of the wealthy, as can be expected. With this thought in mind, it might suffice to say that open water was a haven for some and a formidible destination for others; that in the end it was a place where the lines between legality, morality and even reality often blurred and what was left was the waving of the sails and the crashing of the ocean. Many of The earliest pirates to be recorded throughout history hailed from the Mediterranean in roughly 14th century BC but they certainly weren’t the patch clad crusaders Hollywood later made them out to be…
Pirates: Why We’re Obsessed With Them
As mentioned above, the main reason for the obsession is Hollywood’s depiction of these adventurous, treasure hunting outlaws, who often seem more mysterious than murderous. In actuality, quite the opposite is true. The harsh reality is that pirates often led short, torturous lives wherein their treasures consisted of basic necessities— stuff like food, cotton and thread, the shipmates followed laws and voted in a semi-democratic spirit and their clothing was often dull and tattered. All disappointments aside, pirates are still pretty fascinating for all of the following reasons:
- They were explorers of the ocean
- They employed the use of ancient maps
- Although rare, they did occasionally uncover treasure, discover new lands, engage in fencing battles and get put to death via the walking of the plank.
In other words, sunken treasure, diamonds and gold and triangular trading, glamorous expeditions, sea monsters, (yes, see monsters) and certain death, all of the stuff legends are made of was really out there on the open water. It was rare, but always present and that’s what drew people in.
“pirates could happen to anyone.” tom stoppard
While not necessarily a determining factor in pirate rank, it is notable to mention that many of the most famous pirates in the West had ties to both militia and the slave trade. In fact, some sailors were considered pirates simply because they turned against the slave trade, the military, or their leaders. You didn’t necessarily have to steal anything to be called a pirate, rescuing someone from captivity could also earn you the unfavorable moniker. Then there were the pirates who started out on the other side of the fence, as pirate hunters. And last but not least there were pirates who were hired by their kings to smuggle treasure and information from rival countries. After scrutinizing the wreckage of sunken sea rover ships one thing is clear— the ocean had its own way of making equals out of man, woman and sea creature alike. Here are some of the most noted pirates in history:
Henry Every A.k.a. The King of Pirates
The richest pirate in recorded history, Henry Every who went by many aliases but was known to most as the King of Pirates cruise the high seas in the mid to late 1600s. His booty consisted of 11+ sea vessels and what would be the equivalent today of $52.4 million in precious jewels. The bounty put forth for his capture was an exuberant amount for the time, but Every was resourceful and found refuge in New Providence, a notorious pirate laden locale and thus he was never found or heard from again.
The Proclamation Condemning Henry Every: King of Pirates
Above: Black Bart’s Flag Featuring Death and An Hourglass
Dubbed the most successful pirate to tackle the tides during the Golden Age of Piracy, Bartholomew Roberts, better known as Black Bart, lost his life in a bloody battle on the high seas. His legacy left behind booty from an approximated 470 captured vessels.
One interesting speculation related to female pirates is the fact that many of their legacies have been written off as simply being urban legends despite the vast amount of historical evidence surrounding their lives and their deaths. Even in the face of court documents and discovered artifacts, their lives are often linked to legend. Could it be that, subconsciously, society still isn’t ready to accept the idea of a female warrior or were their lives simply too far from the ordinary to be accepted by historians?
Alvilda The Viking
This ferocious, Danish sea rover was known mostly for her beauty but also for her booty. Legend has it that she confiscated a pirate ship, battled the Prince of Denmark and later became his queen.
Jeanne de Belleville
This 14th-century daughter of a nobleman led the Black Fleet, a series of painted warships, into battle with the French along the English Channel. Her moniker, the Lioness of Brittany left quite a legacy behind.
The Lives of Pirates
The vast majority of pirates appear to have led short, simple lives. Treasure hunters and shipwreck excavators have uncovered the following artifacts that give us all a glimpse into the lifestyle of the everyday pirates: Dice comprised of bones 14th Century Treasure Coins Derived from the Frome Hoard a Treasure Chest Brimming with Gold discovered in the Whydah Gally, a ship that was believed to have belonged to famed bucaneer Captain Samuel Bellamy who reined in the Golden Age of Piracy. Other, more common items that have also been discovered include cereal bowls, forks, knives, clothing, weapons, flags and medical supplies.
Pirate Dice Were Often Made Of Bones
Contrary to popular belief, there were no specific ships that were designated for piracy. The reason for this is because pirates pride themselves on confiscating legal vessels that were riding the high seas. As such, this section of my obsession will simply focus on the ships that were most popular during the Golden age of piracy. Of them are:
Frigates were highly sought after warships equipped to carry heavy artillery. Their billowing sails and thick, heavy planks were made famous to pirates courtesy of Blackbeard.
Originating in the Netherlands, these gaff-rigged ships were often carrying wealthy occupants, hence their allure to the pirates of olden times.
upcoming obsessions Fueled By this topic
Researching pirates has me eager to learn about shipwrecks, treasure hunting, Hollywood, harbors, ships through the ages, boardwalks, Disney World, amusement parks, New Providence and triangular trade.
the obsession that started today’s topic
This topic began as an offshoot of my very first documented obsession: Underwater Worlds.
Whenever possible, I like to gather my information the good old fashioned way—by heading over to the library. Below are the books and websites I relied upon to create this post along with which part(s) of the topic they covered.
- To continue reading up on female pirates and their legacies please review “Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World“.
- For an indepth look at treasure hunting, check out Robert Kurson’s”Pirate Hunters“.
- To continue learning about piracy and its many contradictions, please see this post on Wikipedia .
This webpage contains unaltered versions of Wikimedia’s Henry Every, pirate ship in harbor, Black Sea Fleet (BSF) frigate Ladny, Frigate, Diceand the geograph’s Sailing barge Henry all of which were available under Creative Commons licensing.
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