Portal:Piracy

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The Piracy Portal

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Piracy is a robbery committed at sea, or sometimes on the shore, by an agent without a commission from a sovereign nation. The Golden Age of Piracy occurred mostly in the Caribbean, the American coast, the Indian Ocean, and the western coast of Africa. As British imperialism spread across Europe it brought about many drastic structural changes due to which many sailors and privateers found themselves unemployed. Factors contributing to piracy included the rise in quantities of valuable cargoes being shipped to Europe over vast ocean areas, the weakness of European navies in peacetime, the training and experience that many sailors had gained as conscripts in European navies (particularly the Royal Navy), and the weakness of European government in overseas colonies.

Seaborne piracy against transport vessels remains a significant issue (with estimated worldwide losses of US$13 to $16 billion per year), particularly in the waters between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, off the Somali coast, and in the Strait of Malacca and Singapore, which are used by over 50,000 commercial ships a year. A recent surge in piracy off the Somali coast spurred a multi-national effort led by the United States to patrol the waters near the Horn of Africa to combat piracy. While boats off the coasts of North Africa and the Mediterranean Sea are still assailed by pirates, the Royal Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard have nearly eradicated piracy in U.S. waters and the Caribbean Sea.


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1734 engraving of Blackbeard
Edward Teach (/ˈtɛ/; c. 1680 – November 22, 1718), better known as Blackbeard, was a notorious English pirate in the Caribbean Sea and western Atlantic during the early 18th century, a period referred to as the Golden Age of Piracy. His best known vessel was the Queen Anne's Revenge, which is believed to have run aground near Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina in 1718.

Blackbeard often fought, or simply showed himself, wearing a big feathered tricorn, and having multiple swords, knives, and pistols at his disposal. It was reported in the A General Historie of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates that he had hemp and lit matches woven into his enormous black beard during battle to intimidate his enemies. Blackbeard is often regarded as the archetypal image of the seafaring pirate.

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Treasure-Island-map.jpg

A treasure map is a variation of a map to mark the location of buried treasure, a lost mine, a valuable secret, or a hidden locale. More common in fiction than in reality, "Pirate treasure maps" are often depicted in works of fiction as hand drawn and containing arcane clues for the characters to follow. Regardless of the terms literary genesis, anything that meets the criteria of a "map" describing the location of a "treasure" could appropriately be called a treasure map. Although buried pirate treasure is a favorite literary theme, there are very few documented cases of pirates actually burying treasure, and no documented cases of a historical pirate treasure map.

One documented case of buried treasure involved Francis Drake who buried Spanish gold and silver after raiding the mule train at Nombre de Dios — after Drake went to find his ships, he returned six hours later and retrieved the loot and sailed for England. Another case in 1720 involved British Captain Stratton of the Prince Eugene who, after supposedly trading — rum with pirates in the Caribbean, buried his gold near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. One of his crew, Morgan Miles, turned him into the authorities, and it is assumed the loot was recovered. In any case, Captain Stratton was not a pirate, and made no map. (more...)

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Did you know...

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  • ...that English pirate Henry Every, who was sometimes known as Long Ben, was one of the few major pirate captains to retire with his loot without being arrested or killed in battle?
  • ...that red Jolly Roger flags were the most feared of all; all prayed they never encountered the "Bloody Red," which boldly declared that no mercy would be shown and all victims would be killed?
  • ...that, while it is unknown if pirates actually kept parrots as pets, it is thought that at least some captains kept cats aboard to keep populations of rats and other vermin down?
  • ...that, unlike traditional Western societies of the time, many pirate clans operated as limited democracies, demanding the right to elect and replace their leaders?

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Pyle pirate relaxing2.jpg
Image credit: Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates

Howard Pyle's fanciful painting of Captain Kidd and his ship, the Adventure Galley, in a New York City harbor. The Adventure Galley was a three-mast square-rigged ship, which weighed 287 tons, had 34 cannons, and a crew of about 150. When it was badly leaking it was lost in San Maria, a formable pirate base. It was stripped and the rest burned. It still remains in the shallow bay of the island.

Selected Jolly Roger

devil skeleton with spear and hourglass, aiming at a heart
Flag of Blackbeard

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