Pirates of the Caribbean
“Ahoy, matey! There be pirates here!” While Disney’s The Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise might have renewed popular interest in pirates, swashbuckling and chests of buried gold and jewels hidden away on secluded Caribbean islands, those who live here know the truth. There be pirates here.
The Caribbean has a long history of piracy, sword and gun battles, corsairs and more. In fact, a number of Caribbean islands were haunts of pirates and privateers (official pirates, sanctioned by a government) throughout the 1600s and 1700s. Names like Calico Jack, Blackbeard, Anne Bonny, Captain Henry Morgan and Black Bart still bring to mind treasure chests and the Jolly Roger flapping in the salty wind. Nassau, Port Royal and Tortuga were all pirate seaports at one point.
Of course, contrary to the popular depiction, pirates weren’t really jovial men and women, constantly drunk on rum and searching for each other’s treasure. They were violent (and drunk, yes), and murder never bothered them. They raided government ships for gold, silver, jewels and other valuables, and they killed indiscriminately. A pirate’s life was short, and likely to end with the hangman’s noose. Few buccaneers managed to enjoy the fruits of their theft for very long.
A Look at Prominent Pirates
There were several notorious and successful pirates in the centuries during which the Caribbean islands were home to buccaneer ships.
Captain Henry Morgan – You’ll see his face on the label for Captain Morgan’s Rum, one of the prime liquor exports for the US Virgin Islands, but Morgan was also a successful pirate in his day. Morgan was actually a privateer, a captain licensed by the British crown to attack Spanish ships, and he did it well.
Blackbeard – Perhaps the most famous of all pirates, Blackbeard was actually named Edward Teach at birth. He ravaged shipping throughout the Caribbean islands in the early 1700s, but was killed by pirate hunters in 1718.
Black Bart – When it comes to successful pirates, few can match the exploits of Black Bart Roberts (Captain Bartholomew Roberts). For three years, he looted and burned his way through the islands, with hundreds of ship sinkings to his credit.
Visitors to the Caribbean islands today will still find ties to the pirates of yore. The US Virgin Islands honor Captain Morgan, while Nassau and Tortuga still stand. A vacation to any of these islands will let you learn more about these swashbuckling scallywags and scurvy buccaneers.