Black Beard’s ship from the movie, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, during filming at Kaneohe’s Heeia Pier, Oahu.
(Picture taken by me while on vacation in Hawaii, July 2010)
Pirates have been around a lot longer than most people think. From the book “Pirates, Scourge of the Seas” by John Reeve Carpenter, John writes;
“The earliest pirates predate the pyramids. During the fourteenth century B.C., sea raiders known as the Lukka operated off the coast of Asia Minor. It is believed that piracy in the eastern Mediterranean occurred even earlier. The Lukka, who allied with the Hittite Empire, targeted Egyptian ships and raided Cyprus.”
The pirate story’s and movies we are so familiar with, are generally depicted during the “Golden Age of Piracy”. This era took place between the late 1600’s through the early 1700’s mostly in the Mediterranean sea. Pirates came from all nationalities and backgrounds, but during the Golden Age of Pirates, the majority are said to be Welsh.
Pirates usually recruited a small crew on land, then as they captured ships at sea, they would increase their numbers by inviting the captured ship’s crew to join. Most people don’t realize pirate captains were more diplomatic with their crew than the captains of English and French vessels sailing during that same time frame. Religion or race was of no concern to the pirate captain, their crew all shared the booty equally.
Currently the best known example of pirate culture is the Whydah pirate ship exhibit presently on display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science here in Colorado. Pirate captain Samuel Bellamy captured a homeward bound English slave ship called the Whydah in late February of 1717. According to records, the vessel had just unloaded its slave cargo and had 20-30,000 pounds of silver and gold aboard. Captain Bellamy later ran the ship aground in April of 1717 near Cape Cod during a violent thunder storm with winds of an excess of 70mph. The majority of the 144 man crew perished that day only to visit Davy Jone’s Locker.
URL of the Whydah: http://www.whydah.org/
With a little actual pirate history behind us, let’s venture into the realm of the supernatural and mythical. For hundreds of years men sailing the seas were introduced to many a legend and many a story. The following is just a brief example of the paranormal side to piratecy and what faced them.
Mythological Characters of the Sea
Calypso: A sea nymph who was the daughter of the Greek God, Atlas. She was known as the Goddess of Silence and Deception. Her mission was to make sure sailors didn’t complete their tasks by distracting them with her beauty. This caused them to fail ultimately at their duties leaving them in distress.
Kraken: This mythological creature’s story seems to go back as early as the twelfth century. The origins of the name appear to have come from the Norwegians. The Kraken is a ginormous sea monster which would attack ships and drag them down to Davy Jone’s Locker in one tremendous swoop. Described as a giant squid, it would grow up to 300 feet in length and terrorize the ships at sea.
Devil Whale: Stories say a gigantic whale would float motionless on the surface tricking the sailors to think it was an island. When the sailors would put a shore on the whale, the mighty beast would attack the ship dragging it to the depths of the ocean.
Mermaids: With the head and torso of a beautiful woman and the tail of a fish, Mermaids would sing enticing songs to the sailors and lure them to the ocean depths taking their souls with them.
Sprites: Also known as ghosts of the sea, these disembodied spirits haunted ships which had a troubled past. Sometimes a Sprite could also bring a warning of impending doom or danger by warning sailors to stay away from the water. Possibly protecting them from a natural disaster or looming bad weather, they were either feared or welcomed. Sprite sightings have also occurred in areas where ships had sunk in which their crew had vanished.
Sea Serpent: Described as a prehistoric dinosaur of the sea, these large aquatic reptiles have not only been seen since man started venturing the seas, but are still seen to this very day. From Loch Ness to Lake Champlain, it seems serpents like Nessie and Champ still rule the waters and frighten those who venture on it.
Sponge Bob Square Pants: Are you ready kids? Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? SpongeBob SquarePants!
(sorry got carried away)
Davy Jone’s Locker: A nautical term which dates back to the early 1700’s, sometimes also known as, “The devil of the sea and his locker on the ocean bed”. Sailors believed Davy Jones was a demon which is in charge of all evil spirits of the ocean. Legend says if a pirate died at sea, he was sent down to Davy Jone’s Locker for eternity. Basically Hell.
The Flying Dutchman: A ghost ship which can never return to shore and is forced to sail the seas for eternity. The crew is made of up dead souls which were captured to crew the ship. Legend says the captain can return to shore once every hundred years to find a mate.
Actual Phenomenons Which Pirates Feared
The Green Flash: This visual natural phenomenon is described as a sudden flash of emerald green light as the sun begins to set. Documented back to the early 1600s, the flash consists of green rays shooting upwards lasting more than a few seconds.
St. Elmo’s Fire: An electrical weather phenomenon which is created by a coronal discharge originated from a grounded object in an atmospheric electric field. Generally caused by thunderstorms, these large strikes of lightening are seen as a good omen by the men at sea. Some say it’s the finger of God stretching down from Heaven to protect the sailors.
Some Fictional Pirates
Long John Silver: This pirate was created by Robert Louis Stevenson in his novel, Treasure Island. Described as a one legged pirate which carried a crutch, he was a tall strong intelligent man who ruled the seas while having a parrot perched on his shoulder.
Captain Hook: Created by J. M. Barrie’s novel Peter Pan. It was reported Captain Hook was Blackbeard’s boatswain and was feared by many pirates. His only nemesis was the brave and bold Peter Pan… and maybe the crocodile which took his hand depending on the version of the story you prefer.
The Dread Pirate Roberts: Envisioned in the novel, The Princess Bride, this stunning pirate created by William Goldman was known for leaving no survivors. One of the few pirates which donned a black mask and do-rag.
Captain Nemo: Discoverer, scientist, genius, this pirate commanded the infamous Nautilus which was introduced to the public in Jules Verne’s, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
Captain Kangaroo: Ok not a pirate, but had a bad haircut and talked to puppets.
Captain Morgan: Not a pirate either, but a fine companion to have at parties.
And of course the most famous pirate today!
Captain Jack Sparrow…. arrrh
Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow at Kaneohe’s Heeia Pier during filming, “The Queen Anne’s Revenge.”
(Picture taken by my daughter Ashley.)
Captain Jack Sparrow: A legendary pirate of the Seven Seas, Captain Jack Sparrow is the irreverent trickster of the Caribbean. A captain of equally dubious morality and sobriety, a master of self-promotion and self-interest, he fights a constant and losing battle with his own best tendencies. Jack Sparrow’s first love is the sea, his second his beloved ship the Black Pearl, whether it be lost or found, or lost again. (bio from Disney.go.com)
Drink up me hearty Yo Ho!