My friend Connor M. is doing his senior research on pirates and privateers, and in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, graciously agreed to become this blog’s first guest poster! I mentioned the other day I don’t know much about real pirates… little did I know he was already writing on real pirates as opposed to fictional ones! Take it away, Connor…
Pirates have existed in almost all eras of time. From the great Roman Empire to modern day Somalia you can always find these seafaring thieves. Though pirates in all ages are not what Hollywood would have you believe — most pirates are not swashbuckling swordsmen who always get the girl, but hard, half-drunk sailors looking for some easy money.
One theme of pirates that is not very true is that pirates like to bury their loot on some deserted island, mainly because there are and were few deserted, uncharted islands for them to use. Also the loot that pirates got was rarely raw gold or silver but merchandise such as cloth, food and spices that could then be sold for money.
Another dramatized falsehood is the way the pirates lived their lives. The movies would make you believe is that the pirates lived free dangerous lives on the fringe of society, having wonderful adventures on the high seas. If only that were true! The reality of the matter is that pirates usually became pirates not out of choice but necessity, usually they were sailors who after long periods of war were left without a job and with no other way of revenue turned to piracy to line their pockets and fill their stomachs.
Unfortunately a life at sea is hard and usually rots with dangers. First among them is disease, one of which especially common among sailors was scurvy, which occurs due to a lack of vitamin c in one’s diet and since fruit was hard to keep on ships many sailors were susceptible. On a side note, this is where the concept of pirates drinking rum came from, since rum was made with fruit juice in order to combat this disease. Another problem with prolonged life at sea was the lack of food and water, which if the ship was blown off course or the distance miscalculated, then became a deadly occurrence. And the biggest danger to sailors was the weather which could be unpredictable and deadly, especially if you happened to sail straight into a typhoon, which was known to happen.
Oh, and all pirates by the way are outlaws, so all pirates were hunted by different nations and if caught were tried and hanged. The pirate’s life was not easy, not only did life at sea have its dangers, the likelihood that the pirate would find good prey was slim. Usually those rich merchant ships were escorted by a man o’ war, which were huge war ships. Pirates usually favored smaller, faster ships which, while armed, were no match for a man o’ war.
The life of a pirate generally sucked. No fresh food, diseased boats, hunted like dogs, but there was one thing the movies did get right and that was pirates lead exciting lives. Usually short, but very exciting. Generally this excitement came from attacks on harbors and rich merchant vessels that were left without heavy defenses. At these points the pirates life really did resemble the movies: cannons blazing, swords howling, pistols barking. At these moments it truly was good to be a pirate — unfortunately these moments did not last long and usually found the pirates hanging at the gallows afterward.
Share your pirate questions or fun facts in the comments!
This concludes our Talk Like a Pirate Day celebrations. I hope you enjoyed them and will spread the piratical love for the rest of the year!
The Banned Books Blog Party starts tomorrow!