From wild tales of hidden treasures to notorious ship raids, pirates have captured our imaginations for centuries. These maritime marauders have become legendary figures in history and pop culture. But beyond the Hollywood glamor and exaggerated tales, the world of pirates was filled with codes, unique traditions, and incredible characters. Let’s dive into some lesser-known facts about these high seas adventurers.
1. Deadly Significance of Flags: The flags raised by pirate ships were not just for show. A red flag was a chilling sign, signaling “no quarter given.” In pirate speak, this meant no mercy would be shown, and anyone caught would face certain death. On the other hand, a black flag was a slightly more hopeful signal; it suggested that those who surrendered without resistance would be spared.
2. Origin of the Pirate Accent: Ever wondered where the classic “pirate accent” came from? You can thank actor Robert Newton. His over-the-top West Country accent in the film *Treasure Island* popularized what we now identify as the iconic “pirate voice.” Newton’s influence on pirate pop culture was so profound that he’s celebrated annually on International Talk Like a Pirate Day.
3. Pirate Investments: Here’s something you wouldn’t expect – Somali pirates once had an investment firm! People could invest in their seafaring adventures and, if the pirates’ raids were successful, investors would receive a share of the loot.
4. Pirate Codes and Women: Pirates had codes of conduct, some of which were incredibly strict. One such rule prohibited pirates from sneaking women onboard and setting sail with them. Breaking this rule had fatal consequences – it was punishable by death.
5. Life Under ‘Black’ Bart: The Golden Age of Piracy saw “Black” Bart rise as one of its most successful captains. Bart was a disciplinarian with rigid rules: no lights or drinking after 8 PM, and a strict prohibition on gambling. If a crew member was injured, they were granted a pension based on the severity of their injuries.
6. The Fearsome Female Pirate: While male pirates often steal the spotlight, the most successful pirate was a woman from China named Zheng Yi Sao. Commanding a staggering fleet of 40,000-80,000 pirates, she remained undefeated against the navies of several empires, including British, Portuguese, and Qing forces.
7. The Tale of Henry Avery: The 17th century saw Henry Avery pull off one of the most profitable heists, raiding a ship owned by the Grand Ruler of India and stealing jewels and metals worth today’s equivalent of £97.1M. This audacious act led to the world’s first global manhunt. Avery’s fate remains shrouded in mystery. Some believe he changed his identity and lived quietly in Britain or on a tropical island. Others suggest he might have squandered his riches. Regardless of his end, his legendary treasure remains lost to this day.