Arrr, Did You Know? 10 Fun Pirate Facts and Myths
With the launch of NBC’s new pirate series, Crossbones, and Nassau’s famous pirate history, we thought we’d do a post about 10 fun pirate facts and myths. From Blackbeard to grog and the notorious skull and crossbones flag, here’s what we’ve dug up for you (pun intended!) about pirates:
1. Blackbeard was the most feared pirate of all. Blackbeard (AKA Edward Teach) was known as the most terrifying pirate in the world. Before capturing a ship he would weave hemp into his beard and light it on fire—an intimidation tactic that made him look demonic. Yikes! That would scare us, too.
2. The skull and crossbones flag at the top of a pirate ship is called a Jolly Roger.Although the origin of the name “Jolly Roger” has been lost, one theory stems from the use of red flags. Centuries ago, a red flag was commonly used during naval warfare to signal that no mercy would be given, and anyone captured would be killed immediately. Called a Joli Rogue (“pretty red”) by the French, theorists claim this was then translated into English as Jolly Roger. Another theory suggests Jolly Roger derived from “Old Roger”, a term for the Devil. Oh these pirates, they’re so mysterious!
3. Not every pirate ship used a Jolly Roger flag. Pirates from The Bahamas had their flags specially made by a sail-maker’s widow who took payment in brandy, while Blackbeard had his own black flag featuring a skeleton with horns. The skeleton held an hourglass in one hand, and in the other he carried a spear pointing to a heart dripping with three drops of blood.
4. There were women pirates, too. Being a pirate wasn’t just for men. Famous female pirates include Mary Read, Anne Bonny, Grace O’Malley, and Ching Shih.
5. Grog was the pirate’s drink. Grog—a mixture of rum, water, lemon juice, and sugar—was the drink of choice for pirates. (Hmmm, wonder if that’s where the idea for our rum punch came from?)
6. Captain Woodes Rogers chased the pirates out of The Bahamas. Captain Woodes Rogers, a former privateer, went on to become the governor of The Bahamas, and in the process, helped drive all the pirates off the Islands.
7. Pirates did have eye patches. It’s been said that one of the reasons pirates wore eye patches was to help keep one eye adjusted to night vision for seeing below deck.
8. They didn’t really make people walk the plank. Although walking the plank is common in contemporary pirate lore, most pirates just killed people straightaway. When they did torture their prisoners, it was usually through keelhauling (dragging a tied sailor in the water from the back of the ship), marooning a person on a deserted island or remote sandbar, or lashings with a leather whip.
9. Pirates didn’t always bury their treasure. Some pirates didn’t bury their treasure right away because they wanted their share of the loot beforehand. And a pirate’s treasure didn’t always include gold or silver; most of it was food, lumber, cloth, and animal hides.
10. Each pirate ship had its own set of rules and code. Almost every pirate ship had their own set of guidelines that all pirates had to agree to. This included how the loot would be divided, who had what chores, and what was expected of everyone. Believe it or not, one of the most common rules was no fighting onboard. If two pirates had a disagreement they’d have to wait, and fight on land.
Arrr, matey, did yar learn anything new? Do you have a pirate fact or myth you’d like to share? Tell us on Facebook or tweet it to us on Twitter—let’s talk pirate together.
Love pirates? Visit our interactive Pirates of Nassau Museum in the heart of downtown Nassau. Spend a whole afternoon (or day!) learning about pirate life, board the Revenge—a replica pirate ship—and buy yourself a pirate keepsake.
Sources: History-for-kids.com, Funtrivia.com, Latinamericanhistory.about.com, Mental Floss, and Wikipedia (No quarter, walking the plank, and Jolly Roger).