Day 15 - At Sea




Throughout the centuries pirates
have captivated imaginations
as no other figures from history could

Throughout history pirates have terrorized the world's seas. The 1600's and early 1700's were known as the Golden Age of Piracy. Ships loaded with goods such as gold, tobacco, silks and spices, would be sailing back to Europe. Pirates could not resist the temptation to rob these ships. The Islands Of The Bahamas made an ideal home base for pirates and privateers. The numerous islands with their complex channels provided excellent hiding places for the plundering ships. And since The Islands Of The Bahamas were close to well-travelled shipping lanes, it gave the buccaneers plenty of opportunities to steal from merchant ships.

The distinction between privateers and pirates is not easy to explain. True pirates stole from anyone. They were criminals and if caught, faced certain death. Most British pirates were hanged. Their bodies were then chained by the River Thames as a warning. Buccaneers acted during the 1600's and were a group of runaway men (slaves), criminals and refugees who were living in the Caribbean. Mainly Dutch, English and French, they hated the Spanish, who ruled much of the Caribbean at that time. They enjoyed attacking the Spanish ships and did so whenever they could.

Privateers were sponsored by their government and had permission to rob ships. They had Letters of Marque (an authority formerly given to fit out an armed ship and use it to attack and capture a merchant ship) which could save them from punishment. The most clever of all was a privateer Capt. Henry Morgan, famous for his exploits against the Spanish. Morgan was born about 1635 in Glamorganshire, Wales. History has it that Morgan was the nephew of Colonel Edward Morgan who looted and captured St. Euststius and Saba Island. These two small islands are just south of the US Virgin Islands and west of St. Martin.

One of the most dreaded pirates of all was Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard. To make himself look terrifying during a raid, he used to braid lit hemp fuses into his hair and beard. The same kind of fuse to light cannons. These fuses burned slowly and smoked so he looked like he was on fire. The sight of this smoke was enough to make many merchantmen surrender before any shots were fired. If they gave up without a fight, Blackbeard would confiscate their valuables and weapons, letting them sail away without bloodshed. However, if the crew showed any resistance, he would either kill or abandon them on a desolate island. Some time about 1716-1718, Blackbeard attacked many ships and it was the governor of Virginia who sent two Navy ships to capture him. After a long battle, Blackbeard was decapitated and his head displayed on the ship. Although his pirating career only lasted about five years, it is believed that Blackbeard captured 40 ships and his legend lives on today.


Pirates in the West Indies were the first to fly red flags to let everyone know who they were. The skull and crossbones was popular with Pirates, it was the symbol for death. Pirates created their own flags, or Jolly Roger as it was called. Blackbeard added an hourglass to show that time was running out and death was coming soon.

Throughout the centuries pirates have captivated imaginations as no other figures from history could, and the fact that some pirates were women has astonished and intrigued people even more. Anne Bonny and Mary Read –both disguised as men- were two of the most notorious female pirates and were as brave and daring as the men who fought beside them. In 1720, Captain Burnet, a pirate-hunter commissioned by Royal Governor Woodes Rogers, attacked their ship. The crew, which was drunk at the time, huddled in the hold while the two women repelled the attackers. They were unsuccessful and everyone was tried for piracy and sentenced to death.

Claiming pregnancy, Anne and Mary avoided an immediate hanging, although Mary eventually died in her prison cell from a fever. Anne gave birth to her baby and, for some reason, was granted a reprieve. She disappeared and was never heard of again.



Read the passages carefully and ANSWER these questions:


Which ships couldn't pirates resist to rob



What gave the buccaneers plenty of opportunities to steal from merchant ships? 



What was Capt. Henry Morgan famous for?



How did Blackbeard treat those merchantmen who showed any resistance?



What were Anne Bonny and Mary Read like?



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