Pirates/ Obsession of the Day/ The Poet’s Guide

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.

Choose A New Obsession

 

 

“pirates could happen to anyone.” tom stoppard

tpg pirates 5jpg

 

Famous Pirates

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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

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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

 

Black Bart

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.


Female Pirates

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

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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

Pirate Ships

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 

101021-N-7642M-317 BOSTON (Oct. 21, 2010) USS Constitution returns to her pier after an underway to celebrate her 213th launching day anniversary. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kathryn E. Macdonald/Released)

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.

Schooners

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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.

Sources

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.

 

This webpage contains unaltered versions of Wikimedia’s Henry Every, pirate ship in harbor, Black Sea Fleet (BSF) frigate Ladny, FrigateDiceand the geograph’s Sailing barge Henry all of which were available under Creative Commons licensing.

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Ancient Maps/ Obsession of the Day/ The Poet’s Guide

Obsession of the Day: Ancient Maps/ The Key To Earth’s Legend


It’s common knowledge that the earth is round, but never forget the fact that there was once a time when it was common knowledge that the earth was flat. Discovery, and its many forms, is the end result of exploration . How better to learn your way around the cracks and crevices of the Earth’s surface than with a map? Here’s a look at ancient maps, my obsession of the day.

Ancient Maps: The Onset of Navigation, Civilization and More 

Picture yourself in a cave off the coast of somewhere, waves crashing against the shoreline. You’re alone when that white streak in the sky disappears and nothing but darkness surrounds you. Bearings are difficult to gather since you don’t even have an understanding of which way the tide rolls in. As such, figuring out where to pitch your hut and not get eaten in the process is somewhat challenging. This was life before cartography, when everyone who wandered truly was lost. Today, it may look like we’ve covered lots of ground, but believe it or not, there are plenty of unmapped corners to go and that’s only on this planet. When you take into consideration the vast spinning universe, it becomes clear that we still know very little about our surroundings.

Ancient Maps: Why We’re Obsessed With Them

Sure today’s maps are likely more reliable and definitely easier to make but part of the allure of these quondam documents lies in their imperfections. Modern day maps tell us a bit about where we’re headed. The maps of yesteryear however, tell us a lot about where we’ve been, why we went there and what the world looked like through the eyes of ancient voyagers. Spacial information, the scientific stuff that maps are made of, isn’t always easy to convey. In fact, there’s an entire school of thought dedicated to the map makers’ perspective and how that perspective influences the map itself. More on that in a minute. For now, let’s just focus on the most intriguing part of the ancient map making process.—The escapade. You see, back then, if you wanted to map a course for the world, you had to take a journey, often one of the treacherous, life altering variety.

Choose A New Obsession

 

 

“I have indeed—praise be to God—attained my desire in this world, which was to travel through the Earth, and I have attained this honour, which no ordinary person has attained.” IBN Baṭūṭah, World Traveler 1304-1369

 

Famous voyagers Who Brought Us The World On Parchment

What did it take to brave the high seas of yesteryear and return to your homeland with treasures and visual aids? Well aside from courage and fleets of ships and sailors to help navigate said ships, you also needed:

  • Money — in order to fund your stay in various destinations upon arrival as well as upkeep of the ship, crew, etc.
  • Connections— Theft was common at the dawn of exploration so maintaining worldly connections was a great way to avoid the perils of life on the open water and world.
  • Sea legs—Travel by water was often safer, faster and more effective.
  • Medicine— Falling ill whilst on a journey was  common and could often be fatal

Ancient Maps Could Never Exist Without These Great Explorers

The below listed voyagers had all of the aforementioned attributes and something else too—a deep understanding of our ever changing planet. Meet them and the ancient maps they brought forth.

Ibn Baṭūṭah
ootd maps ibn 2Hailing from Tangier, Morocco, Ibn Baṭūṭah was a Muslim scholar and world traveler revered as one of the “greatest travelers of all time” — quote from Glimpses of World History. His many maps charted multiple places in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Incidentally, he happened to be one of the wealthiest Islamic intellectuals and voyagers of the Medieval Times.

Ancient Map from Medieval Times

ootd maps ibn 3

Sieur De La Salle

La Salle University was named after this renowned French traveler who set sail across the Great Lakes of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico. You might have heard of the La Salle Expedition. If not, look out for it in an upcoming obsession.

Leif Erikson

Iceland native Leif Erikson is notable, not only for his exploration, but also because his sole existence as an explorer defies a lot of what is often taught in social studies in regards to Christopher Columbus. While it is widely known that Christopher Columbus didn’t exactly discover America (due to the fact that people were already living there) he is still regarded as having brought the discovery of America back to Europe. Upon further archeological scrutiny, however, it becomes clear that Erikson, who was of Norse descent, was actually the first European voyager to set foot on American soil. Depicted below you will find one of the ancient maps of Iceland and Greenland or Groenland as it is believed to have been called.

Charles A Lindbergh

Speeding things forward in time, let’s have a look at Charles A Lindbergh whose flight from New York to Paris in 1929 single handedly changed the course of aviation for years to come. While there were several previous failed attempts at what is now known as a “Transatlantic Flight”, many of which involved hot air balloons, his was the first successful mission to be completed. Refer to the below depicted maps for a look at the course of aviation directly following Lindbergh’s success.

ootd maps lindbergh 2

Map makers-putting it all into perspective

As stated above, ancient maps were often flawed, or at the very least, influenced by the map makers’ perception of the world. Notable inaccuracies that caused quite the stir include:

  • The depiction of Africa which was frequently drawn as much smaller than its actual size
  • Ficticious locations drawn seemingly deliberately on maps such as those that depicted Mount Richard and Sandy Island, neither of which have ever existed
  • Errors due to natural and environmental changes. This happens when long periods of time lapse and old maps remain in circulation. In order to provide you with a firmer understanding of just how quickly things can change. Here’s a look at Southeast Asia from 120 AD up into the 1800s’.

From Ptolemy’s Perspective In Roughly 120 AD

ootd Ptolemy_Asia_detail

Southeast Asia in 400 AD

OOTD Asia_400ad

And Again, the Same Area in 1801

ootd se asia

I know what you’re thinking-what about all the monster maps?

Wait a minute—monster maps? While you might not have learned about them in history class, ancient maps are absolutely littered with mythical creatures. Things like sea monsters, dragons and dinosaurs roared ugly heads upon even the most famous of documents, particularly during the notorious Medieval era when legend had many a missing person written off as devoured by a fire-breathing monstrosity or worse but here’s something really noteworthy— many of the descriptions of these monsters were identical despite the fact that the accounts were given by travelers from different corners of the Earth who likely didn’t know each other or have contact with each other at all. Ahhh… The things that breed my new obsessions. Fire breathing dragons. Check.   

upcoming obsessions Fueled By this topic

Researching ancient maps has me looking forward to learning about fire breathing dragons, hot air balloons, the LaSalle Expedition, aviation history, stamps, unmapped lands and undiscovered waters.

the obsession that started today’s topic

This topic began as an offshoot of my very first documented obsession: Underwater Worlds.

Sources

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 learning about Ibn Baṭūṭah please refer to wikipedia
  • For more information related to notable ancient explorers please see “Magill’s Choice Explorers“.
  • To continue learning about map projections, errors, inaccuracies and the most accurate map created in medieval times please see this post on Cartography  

 

This webpage contains unaltered versions of Wikimedia’s Ibn Battuta, Faroe stamp 225 Discovery of America – Leivur Eiriksson, History of Greenland and History of Southeast Asia all of which were available under Creative Commons licensing.

Learn About Philadelphia

We at TPG certainly hope you’re feeling inspired. Don’t forget to like, share and sign up for our email list to get caught up with the new features we’ll be adding everyday!

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