Written By: Peter Whiting
When you hear the word "pirate," you likely picture a rogue character commanding a rough-looking ship on the high seas. Capt. Jack Sparrow may be one of the best-known fictional pirates, but there were plenty of real ones who sailed the oceans looking to plunder and pillage. The 17th and 18th centuries were the golden age of piracy, as this was the period when famous pirates such as Capt. Kidd and Blackbeard were intercepting and raiding ships. Pirates earned a reputation for robbing, kidnapping, and murdering without reservation.
Pirates were criminals who traveled via water, attacking other ships or raiding coastal settlements to rob them. Pirates generally had no problem with committing other crimes, such as kidnapping and murder, on their quest to rob people. Pirates also engaged in other illegal activities, such as smuggling and slave trading. Although most pirates were men, a few women also engaged in these illegal activities.
Movies and stories often tell tales of pirates, depicting an exciting and even glamorous lifestyle for these criminals. Most pirates started out as sailors who eventually realized that it could be lucrative to steal from others to earn a living instead of just working on ships. Pirates usually spent many months at sea, which meant that their food supply would eventually dwindle. For this reason, pirates often existed on limited diets of fermented vegetables and cured meats. Many pirates also consumed large amounts of alcohol, typically rum that was made from sugar cane that grew on Caribbean farms. Personal hygiene wasn't a priority for pirates, which was a good thing because the fresh water supply on board their ships had to be saved for drinking, not bathing. Sleeping in the open air in hammocks was common for pirates. Although eating and merry-making was popular with pirates, they also had to maintain their ships. Pirates didn't usually live long lives due to their dangerous lifestyles.
A few pirates made huge names for themselves thanks to their wild acquisitions on the open seas. These pirates were so fearsome and revered that their names have gone down in history as treacherous bandits on the ocean. Blackbeard began his career by capturing a French slave ship, which he later named Queen Anne's Revenge. Blackbeard was eventually killed in a battle with the British Navy. Capt. Kidd was another famous pirate who sailed the seas in the late 1600s and early 1700s. He was arrested, tried, and executed for his misdeeds, and the authorities displayed his dead body as a deterrent for other pirates. Anne Bonny joined forces with Calico Jack, disguising herself as a man. She was never in charge of her own ship, but she earned a reputation as a dangerous pirate. Bonny was captured and was sentenced to death, but she managed to avoid the sentence by claiming that she was pregnant. Bonny disappeared after she was released from prison.
A few pirate ships are just as notorious as their famed pirate captains. Capt. Kidd's ship the Adventure Galley was armed with both sails and oars so it could move in calm winds. Unfortunately, Kidd had to abandon his ship off the coast of Madagascar in 1698. Blackbeard's ship the Queen Anne's Revenge was a powerful and revered ship due to its weapons and oars. Blackbeard ran the ship ashore in 1718, and marine archaeologists have been recovering treasure from it since its discovery in 1997.
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