ARRR, DID YOU KNOW? 10 FUN PIRATE FACTS!
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. He was even an inspiration for the book Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.
7. Pirates did have eye patches. Some assume pirates wore eye patches there to cover a missing eye or an eye that was wounded in battle, but in fact, an eye patch was more likely to be used to condition the eye so the pirate could fight in the dark. It takes an average human eye about 25 minutes to fully adapt from bright sunlight to seeing in complete darkness—if a pirate was fighting on deck in the light, then had to go under the deck to fight downstairs where it is usually pretty dark, that would be a long time to go without being able to see. The eye patch could be used to prepare one eye to see in the dark, so when they would go below deck they could swap over the eye patch from one eye to the other and see with the eye that has already adjusted to low light conditions. This would allow them to see instantly in the dark.
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.