Y'argh avast ye! Get yer scallies wagged, yer timbers shivered an' yer hatches battened down - today be International Talk Like a Pirate Day!
I'll admit, I was tempted to write this entire blog in pure, unabridged pirate talk but I imagine it'd get old pretty quick. So instead, I'll just pepper it with seadogs and ahoys so I can get into the spirit of things.
Yes, today is the buccaneers' day where piratical enthusiasts can spend the day talking like a pirate in honour of the filibusters gone by. Started in 2002 by a couple of American friends who initially began speaking like a pirate as a joke before deciding that September the 19th for them would be set aside as an official day.
So in honour of the pirate inside all of us, we've decided to celebrate the day by picking out some of the most important, iconic and interesting piratical destinations around the world for your perusal. Heave ho, ye landlubbers! Let's be off on our nautical tour, savvy?
Port Royal, Jamaica
Let's just get one thing out of the way: the Golden Age of Piracy has and always will have strong roots in the Caribbean, mostly thanks to the plundering of the region by various European superpowers as far back as the 16th century. The epicentre of it all was the city of Port Royal which was founded by Spanish invaders in 1518 and became a hub for the privateers who were given permission by warring states to plunder opposition ships. Specifically British and Dutch privateers came, who were given letters of marque allowing them to directly target Spanish treasure ships. After this practice was abandoned for diplomatic reasons, these privateers went rogue, becoming pirates who used Port Royal as a base of operations to terrorise the shipping lanes around the area. So strong was their presence in the city that the governors asked the pirates to defend it against any attacks from Spanish, Dutch or English forces and as such, Port Royal became a pirate state full of debauchery, wealth and boisterous living.
An astonishing number of famous pirates passed through or had dealings in Port Royal, perhaps the most notable being Edward Thatch, or Blackbeard as he is commonly known. Others include Mary Read and Edward Mansvelt. Henry Morgan famously became the lieutenant-governor of Port Royal and Calico Jack Rackham was executed here on the infamous Gallows Point. Morgan went on to clean the city up, and by 1730 Port Royal had become an upstanding centre of commerce for upstanding citizens (despite its most prominent economy being the slave trade). It never shook off its reputation as a pirate haven however, and today it is mostly known for its wild population, seedy underbelly and debaucheries as the pirate capital of the world.
Île Sainte-Marie, Madagascar
Jetting off across the Atlantic, we take ourselves to African shores with a visit to the marvellous island of Madagascar on Africa's east coast. Today, Madagascar is known as a protected haven for all manner of fantastic and endangered wildlife, but back in the 17th and 18th centuries, Madagascar and in particular, the pirate haven of Île Sainte-Marie was a hive of buccaneer activity almost rivalling that of the pirate kingdoms in the Caribbean. With far more pirate hunters taking to the seas in the Caribbean, many buccaneers abandoned the turquoise waters of Barbados, Jamaica and the islands for the deeper blues and unsuspecting prey of the Indian Ocean. The Indian Mughal empire was in full swing by the Golden Age of Piracy and held enormous wealth thanks to its trade ties with Europe. Trade ships would cross the Indian Ocean and swing under Africa on their way to ports in Britain, Spain and France and the shipping channels would become ideal targets for pirates operating off Île Sainte-Marie.
This smaller Madagascan island was not controlled by any of the European powers and as such, pirates were free to land, dock and form colonies as bases from which to embark on raiding expeditions. Like Port Royal and Jamaica before, the settlements on Madagascar became immensely wealthy and increasingly unruly with nearly 1,500 pirates living there in the 1600s. One story to have come out of Madagascar during this time was the story of Libertalia. This purported pirate republic was a socialist colony where all men (including black slaves) were treated equally, with all spoils of piracy shared between everyone. There is little evidence apart from mention in certain texts about Libertalia, and there is no architectural evidence except from a few hints, so Libertalia remains as a myth (but a compelling one at that.)
The northern parts of the world didn't escape the clutches of the pirate world either, and one of the most significant towns in piracy history was that of Newport, Rhode Island in the United States. A port city in the south of the state, Newport enjoyed status as one of the most successful settlements and benefitted from a wealth of trade passing through its docks. Much of this wealth came from the plantations across the Atlantic Coast, where merchants traded rum, spices, gold and slaves.
Naturally, where money flowed, pirates came. Newport largely tolerated these filibusters with the money they brought in, with one of the most known names being one Thomas Tew, whose exploits as a pirate inspired countless others after him. The pirates favoured the deep waters of Newport's bay for repairs, and there was always an appetite for misbegotten cargo for sale in the alehouses of this colonial town.
The reason Newport makes it onto our list is down to its infamous history in the eyes of pirates. Newport was known as the place where many pirates were tried, convicted and consequently hanged for their crimes. The most famous instance of this was the hanging of 26 pirates, the largest pirate execution ever, on Gravelly Point. Each of the hanged belonged to the crew of the Ranger, Charles Harris' ship, and they were buried on Goat Island in one of the largest mass executions ever carried out on American soil.