The Pirates Are Coming

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“The HISPANIOLA still lay where she had anchored; but, sure enough, there was the Jolly Roger–the black flag of piracy–flying from her peak.” 
 Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

 Caribbean

Pirates, the very name strikes both dread and fascination deep within our hearts.  We fear them, because of their ruthless disregard for those who stood in their way of fortune and fame.  Good folk trembled when they heard their bloodcurdling shouts or saw the Jolly Roger flapping in the brisk sea wind.  And yet, we continue to view those who wore the jaunty tricorne hat, the black eye-patch and the flamboyant, tattered clothes, as a symbol of freedom.   For those of us who have not experienced the terrifying visage of a “real” pirate, we enjoy the adventures of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and the more recent movies like Errol Flynn’s, “Captain Blood” or Johnny Depp’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” series.

Pirates have been with us since ancient times.  During the Greek and Roman civilizations, the Thracians, Tyrsenians, Illyrians and Phoenicians were the known source of the dreaded pirates.  In fact, the “pirate” term comes from the Latin pirata and from the Greek piera meaning “to attempt.”  Even Julius Caesar was captured by notorious pirates who demanded a ransom of 25 gold talents.  Affronted by the low value placed on his life, Caesar insisted that the ransom should be 50 gold talents.  The pirates received the higher amount, but in the end they realized their mistake when Caesar hunted them down.

This week, I want to explore the ‘golden age’ of piracy within the comfort of a safe environment.  What are the myths and facts? Was there really buried treasure?  Why did men and, indeed, women, chose the pirate’s life?  We are on another sea adventure, so batten down the hatches!  We are heading to open waters.

“Life’s pretty good, and why wouldn’t it be?  I’m a pirate, after all.”

Johnny Depp

60 thoughts on “The Pirates Are Coming

  1. the fishermen along this area of ecuador’s coast go out in a collective group and return – high tide to high tide. i was told that they do that to guard against pirates. wow, i was so surprised to hear of pirates out in those pacific waters!
    i look forward to your pirate posts!

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    • You have very wise fishermen! Thank you so much for joining the dialogue!! Let’s pray for a fair wind…

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      • ! you’re welcome!
        many times my internet connection won’t load the entire page.. the like function won’t finish loading, and many times comments won’t go through. i finally give up… only late night does the connection get fast, and then i’m tired!!

        years ago i went whale watching w/fishermen, and we left before sunrise, got past the ‘breakers’ and then idled til the rest of the fishermen were out..

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      • I find that I get most of my blogging done early in the morning and late at night (it is around 11:15 here in Vancouver). I love following your blog! I look forward to your posts – so glad that we connected.

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      • yes, those quiet hours are very special; i notice many times when i am about to go to sleep, you have a new post. it’s usually around 1 here! around 2 another friend posts, and that’s always my signal,’go to sleep, gringa..’

        my biggest problem is if i work in the daytime, it’s so slow that the work doesn’t ‘save,’w/the slow connection. uploading photos can be done (about fifteen minutes to upload one) but it won’t access my online wp image files… at one, i can upload a dozen in about a minute, wow! but it’s hard to get those eight hours’ sleep when i do that.

        i always enjoy seeing your posts in the wee hours! i also have time to enjoy them as well as have a comment go through!!!

        hope it’s a good day foryou!

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      • Thank you so much!!! I have been having some problems with WordPress reader and e-mail subscriptions. I always worry that I will miss your posts!!! 🙂

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      • i laughed! yes, the internet is still sluggish, but i can argue with it three or four times, and it obeys. still too early to pull up a compose page! i’m working on several painting projects (fun ones) so i check the computer while the paint dries!

        speaking of.. i left one outside! whoops, it’s dark here!

        z

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      • Glad to have you aboard! Let us take up Herman Melville’s motto: “I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.”

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  2. pirates were often used for political means… one man’s pirate is another man’s war hero.

    did you ever read “How the Irish Saved Civilization” ?

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    • I am beginning to see that with the “privateers.” My mom read “How the Irish Saved Civilization” – said it was fantastic. I have read two books by Thomas Cahill – “Sailing The Wine-Dark Seas” and “The Gifts of the Jews.” – both excellent. I have just added another book to my “important list of books to read.” Thank you for the reminder and recommendation.

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      • we are in a bit of an anomalie – throughout time it is more often do you have the power to keep your possessions. Maybe the pirate is a natural state of man.

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      • A very interesting thought. Perhaps it is a response to what we consider unfair and unjust. I have been reading a little Peter Pan today –

        “Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle”
        ― J.M. Barrie

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      • I admit to reading the “the Hunger Games” and then one of my all time favorite young adult books “The Blue Sword” by Robin Mckinley – sometimes we adults are improved by a little magic.

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      • I agree and so does Roald Dahl!

        “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
        ― Roald Dahl

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    • Ah…I’m just starting the reading. It was always scary – very, very scary! It seems that humanity is the same throughout history. I’m looking forward to this week – and I am so glad that you are coming with me. Not so scary when you have a kindred spirit sailing by your side.

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  3. ooooooh! I am so glad you are going to explore this. The Pirates of the Seven Sea. What could be more mysterious.

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    • We are setting sail for the Seven Seas. Remember the words of our dear friend, Mark Twain!

      “Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.”
      – Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi

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    • Wonderful!!! A great way to get us started. I remember these plates from books that I read when I was a child. Thank you!!!! for adding to the dialogue. Much appreciated. 🙂

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  4. Tom & Dick – Bloody Mary

    This is a Dutch song. Not about the sixteenth century queen of England, but about a female pirate.

    In Somalia, fishermen became pirates because big foreign ships had polluted and overfished the seas.

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    • Ah, dear Peter Pan! Yes, J.M. Barrie knew a thing about pirates!!!

      “It was then that Hook bit him.
      Not the pain of this but its unfairness was what dazed Peter. It made him quite helpless. He could only stare, horrified. Every child is affected thus the first time he is treated unfairly. All he thinks he has a right to when he comes to you to be yours is fairness. After you have been unfair to him he will love you again, but he will never afterwards be quite the same boy. No one ever gets over the first unfairness; no one except Peter.”
      ― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

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      • That is spot on! It is the unfairness that rankles and children have such a perfect understanding of fairness. Do the imaginations of children see pirates as righting the unfairness of their little worlds?

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      • A very interesting point, Gallivanta. Consider our attachment to Robin Hood and his merry band. Even the superheroes continue to thrive in our imagination. I heard there is a new Superman movie coming out. It seems we look for a equalizer, someone to say we all need to be treated with respect and dignity. 🙂

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      • Now you have me thinking and I am on to highwaymen, Ned Kelly, outlaws, Bonnie and Clyde….quick get me back to Pirates.

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  5. Treasure Island ! Enjoy !!!
    I was terrified by it, horror-struck, mesmerised, and to this day I can hear Long John Silver in my night-mares, his wooden leg, and blindman;s stick tap-tapping along the road.!!!

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    • You and me both! I remember my mother reading the beginning of “Treasure Island!” I hid my head under the covers when she came to Blind Pew and the Black Spot. And then when he was hidden in the Apple barrel…. 🙂

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  6. We think of there being a ‘golden age’ – won’t it be fascinating to see whether this was in fact the case, or whether things were as they are now, but we simply look back on former times with the ever present rose-tinted spectacles, the help of swashbuckling films/books etc etc…

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    • Yes, indeed!!! When I was young, Daphne du Maurier was my favourite – I read, reread, and reread again – Jamaica Inn and Frenchman’s Creek.

      I was just skimming “A Brief History of Tea” by Roy Moxham which gave an account of how the taxation of tea in England during the seventeen hundreds led to a huge smuggling business. He wrote: “In the main, however, the smugglers had the support of a population who wanted tea and other goods without paying what they regarded as an exorbitant tax.”

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  7. Ahoy! Pirates scare me!! I’ll try to muster up courage enough to read your posts, for I wouldn’t want to miss a single one, Rebecca. All the best, matey! -Lori

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    • I am delighted that you’re aboard. It is good that have a good mate alongside when we see the Jolly Roger!!

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  8. Dear Rebecca,
    I live on the coast of North Norfolk where piracy was normalbut not only that it was quite constructive. We have to remember that the pirates were the ones who invented an insurance system and gave many folks a chance to survive. Here it was a kind of law that pirate got the goods of the taken ship, the vicar was in charge of distribution (getting 10-17% for it) and the villagers got the wood of the ships which was worth a lot in an area with very few trees like North Norfolk. Besindes that the pirates invested in the infrastructure of an area like in roads. It`s a myth that pirates were feared, there are documents and you find it in old folk songs too that the girls of a village did welcome pirates very much. This piracy here in Norfolk was different to the Carribean piracy. Those
    Carribean pirates were mostly gay and actual it were the women being quite successful. On my website http://www.kbvollmar.de you read two longer articles about maleand female piracy (50 pages) – a summary of my research about the many shades of piracy – but unfortunately is in German only.
    To cut a long story short: all in all the pirates formed quite socially advanced groups in comparison to the everyday life of the poor on land.
    Thank, dear Rebecca, and great that you choose this very interesting topic that`s still fascinating.
    Many hugs and greetings from pirate`s coast of North Norfolk
    Klausbernd

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    • Thank you for adding so much to this discussion. The more I research, the more I realize that this is a subject that cannot be easily synthesized into sweeping statements and generalizations. When people hunger or face heavy taxation, even vicars will be “in charge of distribution.” When I was reading about Bartholomew Roberts, I discovered he gained a portion of his fortune by attacking slave ships. To me, slave ships exemplified the height of injustice. This is not an easy “black and white” discussion. I need to dig ever deeper. You are right, the topic still fascinates. I tried to purchase through Chapters/Indigo, “A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates” by Captain Charles Johnson which was original published in 1724. It was sold out! On Amazon.ca there were only two left in paperback.

      BTW, I am able to access you website and use Google Translater. There is so much to explore – looking forward to the adventure ahead. Hugs coming back to Norfolk!!! 🙂

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      • Dear Rebecca,
        lucky you:-)
        Well, this book by Charles Johnson is the only one written by somebody who sailed with the pirates. All the other books and articles are written from a distance of time or space loke in Daniel Defoes case (his history of piracy)
        Have a happy weekend 🙂 Oh dear, I have to work having a client for one month. Therefore I cannot blog that much, sorry.
        Big hugs from
        Klausbernd
        .

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      • I will miss you, my dear friend, but I know that you will be doing amazing things. Your client is very lucky to have you. I had a feeling that Charles Johnson would be the book to read. This is a very big subject that goes beyond simple sea yarns. It really is about a global world during a time of great transition, learning, discovery…

        It is a grand discussion – thank you for sharing your insight!! Take care – looking forward to your return!!! Have a great weekend.

        BTW, I just had to share my quote for today:

        “Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.” – Grandma Moses

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      • Dear Rebecca,
        just a short answer before I have to start my session.
        Piracy has had very different sides to it depending on the the region and the times it took place. The pirates of the Carribean in that 50 years of their hight time wee very much different to Irish, English and the early viking pirates. But amazingly enough they all have in common that those male and female pirates who became famous quite often came from nobility or well off families. Well, in my youth we protested against our parents by being hippies and in those times you became a pirate 😉
        Great quote from Grandma Moses – an extraordinary woman!
        Have a great weekend!
        I have to work now
        Klausbernd

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      • Those were the days! Perhaps there is a little bit of pirate in all of us. All the best in your project! I look forward to your return!!!! Safe travels…and fair winds be with you!

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    • There is so much to these narratives – one week doesn’t even scratch the surface. We think we know history until we deep a little. But as Thomas Cahill ones said: “If there are no books. There is no civilization.” So lets keep on blogging. 🙂

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