Swashbuckler: The Romance of the Pirate

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As the day for our Pirates Pack the Park event draws near (less than a week now!), I have begun to think about exhibitions we’ve had about pirates.  I believe we’ve had two in the past twenty years, Swashbuckler:  The Romance of the Pirate and Under the Black Flag:  Life Among the Pirates, although I was only fortunate enough to see the former.  The opening of Swashbuckler was set to coincide with the release of the second Pirates of the Caribbean Movie, Dead Man’s Chest, in 2006.  I remember the exhibition as being vibrant and fun, while at the same time educational as it explored real pirates and pirates in popular culture.  Below are some photos from Swashbuckler.

This was the entrance to the exhibition and talks about a few of the most famous pirates, the one’s most of us know at least a little something about, including Blackbeard.   Read more

The UN Security Council Addresses Piracy

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This service medal, issued during the Korean War, shows the insignia of the United Nations. From The Mariners’ Museum Library collection.

Hello readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. In response to the continual threat of piracy, the United Nations Security Council recently held its first ever debate on the subject. Lead by Indian ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, the council debated the need for better information sharing techniques, whether or not to continue using armed guards on merchant vessels, and the need for more powerful international laws and punishments for pirates. The full article is available HERE.

The fact that this is the first time piracy has ever been directly discussed and debated in the United Nations Security Council is an indication that, sadly, piracy is not on the decline. Rather, the debate reinforces the notion that piracy still is, and will continue to be, a powerful hostile force that the nations of the world need to unite against. Although many recent steps taken off the Somali coast have given us hope that piracy can eventually be defeated, it will likely be a long, hard journey to reach that conclusion. Perhaps the nations of the world can unite and crush this scourge in the near future. However, until that happens our maritime workers must live under an ever-present threat of harm and death from piracy, and consumers around the world will have to pay a little extra for many of the products we take for granted.   Read more

Piracy and Terrorism

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From Thomas B. Hunter’s “The Growing Threat of Modern Piracy,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 125 no. 1 (July 1999), 72-74. From The Mariners’ Museum Library Collection.

Hello readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. Recent posts have concentrated heavily on pirates from the late 17th and early 18th century, but what about the pirates nowadays? Thankfully, some happy news awaits us in that sector. Throughout the year, pirate attacks off of the failed state of Somalia have decreased sharply as a coalition of nations patrol the waterways and merchant ships arm their crews. In addition to these seaborne measures, Somalia’s southwestern neighbor Kenya has recently invaded the areas close to their mutual border in retaliation for constant border transgressions and the kidnapping of tourists in Kenya. The Kenyan military brought the fight to the pirates, destroying pirate strongholds like the one at Kismayo and driving them out of southwestern Somalia. Unfortunately, many of these pirates are also affiliated with a local terrorist branch of Al-Qaeda called Al Shabaab. These terrorists are now bombing Kenyan civilians as revenge for their setbacks.

Events like those described above bring to mind the very real connection between piracy and terrorism that has existed since time immemorial. Terrorism, broadly defined as the use of terror as a coercive measure, can be seen in the fearsome countenance and actions of our favorite pirates of old, like Blackbeard. Blackbeard is famous for lighting candles or furls of weak gunpowder in his beard to create a hellish visage, and when pirates attacked ships or towns they often raped, murdered and stole everything they could get their hands on. So too today, pirates rape murder and rob the hapless victims they come across on the high seas. Piracy has decreased off the coast of Somalia, but the terror attacks in Kenya show that it is still a very real problem and not likely to go away for a long time to come.   Read more

The Difference Between Pirates, Privateers and Buccaneers Pt. 1

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Greetings readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. As we delve deeper into the realm of piracy, a lot of potentially confusing terms are used to make sense of the men and women who struggled over wealth in the late 17th and early 18th century Caribbean. Terms like Pirate, Buccaneer, and Privateer crop up with noticeable frequency, and are often used as synonyms. However, each of these terms has a separate and distinct meaning, even if the people these terms are applied to are too complex for any one title. Therefore, I would be happy to tell you the difference between a Buccaneer, a Pirate, and a Privateer.

Greetings readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. As we delve deeper into the realm of piracy, a lot of potentially confusing terms are used to make sense of the men and women who struggled over wealth in the late 17th and early 18th century Caribbean. Terms like Pirate, Buccaneer, and Privateer crop up with noticeable frequency, and are often used as synonyms. However, each of these terms has a separate and distinct meaning, even if the people these terms are applied to are too complex for any one title. Therefore, I would be happy to tell you the difference between a Buccaneer, a Pirate, and a Privateer.

Pirate Stories

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This is what a 286-year-old book looks like. If you take care of it. From The Mariners’ Museum Library collection.

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Library blog. While perusing the Library stacks in search of an interesting volume on piracy, I discovered a khaki leather-bound book titled “History of the Pyrates” by Capt. Charles Johnston. Based on the condition of the volume, I expected it to date from the 1920s. Imagine my surprise when I opened the cover and discovered it was printed a full 200 years earlier, in 1726! This book tells the tales of all the traditional pirates of the Caribbean: Blackbeard, Calico Jack Rackam, Mary Read & Anne Bonny, and Black Bart Roberts. Written less than 10 years after the last of these great pirates was defeated, this book provides a remarkable firsthand glimpse at exactly how British society saw these famous buccaneers.

First and foremost, a noticeable difference between this book and more modern works is the use of the long “s” in some cases. While the language is otherwise perfectly readable, the long “s” usage can nevertheless be distracting. On the bright side, it is particularly invigorating to read an account of Blackbeard’s defeat less than a decade after it took place in the language of the time. Historically, Lt. Maynard and his sloop Jane engaged Blackbeard’s sloop Adventure in hand to hand combat off the coast of Ocracoke, North Carolina, during which Blackbeard was slain and the pirates killed or captured. In Johnston’s History, a fellow British sloop arrived as reinforcements after Blackbeard died and helped capture the remaining pirates. To quote Johnston, “The Sloop Ranger came up, and attack’d the Men that remain’d in Black-beard’s Sloop, with equal Bravery, till they likewise cry’d for Quarters.” (p. 84).   Read more