Pirates of the Caribbean, British Virgin Islands
Tortola now might often be thought of as the yachting
capital of the Caribbean but back in 1792, it was a hideout for Pirates of the Caribbean.
British authorities referred
to the island as ‘a pirate’s
nest’, it was definitely the pirate capital!
For years, the island was a significant site for pirates
who were on the lookout for treasure ships to attack and ransack –
distributing the ‘booty’ in accordance with The Pirate’s Code.
Piracy and pirates of the Caribbean were especially
prevalent during what has become known as ‘The Golden Age of Piracy’,
between 1680 and 1725. There is little actual formally recorded evidence, for
the simple reason that pirate captains tended not to keep accurate logs, in the
hope of avoiding the gallows if captured.
There is enough to know, though, that the profusion of
islands and sheltered inlets of the Virgin Islands provided plenty of
opportunity for Pirates of the Caribbean to hideaway or refit their ships before their next voyage.
There are plenty of names in the islands to verify this – for instance,
Freebooters Point on Anegada, where a haul of gold and silver buried by
Freebooters after the wreck of a Spanish galleon is still waiting to be
Pirates of the Caribbean leave their names in the BVI's
Norman Island is named
after a pirate captain who was hung by the Spanish.
Bellamy Cay, now generally known as The Last Resort, is from Black Sam
Bellamy, who had great successes until dying at the age of 29 in 1717, sailing
back in the captured ship the Whydah, which has recently been discovered.
On Beef Island is Hamm's Creek, after an associate of the
famous Captain Kidd, and there are two Thatch Islands in the BVI, after perhaps
the most famous pirate of them all, Blackbeard, who had Thatch as one of his
several ‘aliases’. Deadchest
is an island more or less directly opposite Road Harbour, where it is alleged
that Blackbeard marooned some of his crew.
Although this is almost certainly apocryphal, it formed a lasting
impression on Robert Louis Stevenson, who used knowledge acquired from books to
base his Treasure Island on parts of the Virgin Islands group – mentioning
Spyglass Hill, the highest peak on Norman Island, for example.
The legendary English sea captain, Sir Francis Drake, known
by the Spanish as El Pirata or El Draque, sailed as a Privateer – a kind of
government appointed pirate – who gathered his fleet of ships in the North
Sound before going off to attack Puerto Rico.
There are two exits to the North Sound that pirates of the Caribbean, with their local
knowledge, were able to exploit in order to escape pursuers or lure them onto
the treacherous reefs – these being the Eustatia Sound and the Pirate Escape
Route – the latter is now used by adventurous snorkelers or people going off
beachcombing in a dinghy.
And finally just a few ‘strange but true’ facts to
conclude this lightning tour of the BVI pirates.
Firstly, the Pirate’s Code is currently being studied by lawyers, as a
fascinating example of simple and clear rules of law. Secondly, the last recorded act of piracy in the islands was
actually as recently as 1869, with a ship called the Telegrafo.
Finally, the Pirate’s Code strictly forbade women from
ever becoming pirates. It is
apparent, though, that two females actually successfully broke the code,
becoming known as ‘The Ladies from Hell’.
They went into battle topless, allegedly – but that wasn’t included
in ‘Pirates from the Caribbean’!
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Pirates of the Caribbean