Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pirate Video of the Day

Here's "Redbeard's Rap" from Bus Pirates, an online comedy show about pirates who invade city buses, apparantly.

You can see episodes one through six of Bus Pirates, as well as some behind the scenes clips, on their MySpace page.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Jolly Noggin of Blackbeard

In 1996, a marine recovery team found the remains of a wrecked ship in an inlet on the coast of North Carolina. Since then, about a third of the wreckage has been excavated, yielding over 16,000 artifacts of British origin. The wreck has been identified as probably being the Queen Anne's Revenge, a pirate ship that scourged the coast of the southern colonies under the captaincy of Edward Thatch (sometimes given as Teach), better known as Blackbeard.

Blackbeard made his last stand off the coast of NC almost three hundred years ago. Despite the fact that Blackbeard had decided to accept a Royal pardon and retire, Governor Spotswood of Virginia sent two sloops out of his jurisdiction to hunt down the illustrious Captain Thatch.

Lieutenant Robert Maynard, in command of the mission, engaged Thatch near Beaufort Inlet. After a spirited exchange of insults and gunfire, Blackbeard and ten of his men threw grenades made of rum bottles full of gunpowder onto the deck of Maynard's sloop. After covering the deck with smoke and broken glass, they boarded.

They say Blackbeard was shot five times and stabbed close to twenty before he fell. Maynard cut off Thatch's head-- not only for a trophy, but also as proof to collect the bounty (a meagre £100). He hung the head from his bowsprit. That's the beam that juts out from the front of a wooden ship.

According to legend, Blackbeard's decapitated body was thrown overboard, where it swam around the sloop seven times before sinking. But the head was kept, this we know. And scholars suspect that we still have Blackbeard's actual skull.

This supposed skull of Blackbeard and many of the recovered artifacts from the supposed Queen Anne's Revenge will be on display at a grand exhibition of pirate history from antiquity to the present at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. The exhibit, entitled Knights of the Black Flag, opens tomorrow.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Bottle of Rum

Pirates didn't have running water on their wooden ships (and in case you didn't know it, you can't survive on sea water because of the salt). So all the water to be consumed on a voyage had to be brought along in barrels. Over the course of a few weeks, the water would get algae in it.

To keep the water from growing, they would sometimes put salt in it (enough to kill algae but not pirates). Or they would put some alcohol in it. Pirates of the Caribbean found an abundant supply of "kill devil," an alcohol that came as a byproduct of sugar cane production. When people began to cultivate kill devil on purpose, its name became rum. A bit of rum in water (and sometimes also with a little salt) is the drink that became known as "grog."

Rum was very cheap and abundant in the Caribbean, and so it was the alcohol of choice for our brethren around the Spanish Main. The Royal Navy gave strict rations of hootch, but pirates could be freer, at least when recruiting Navy sailors. During a voyage, the captain would still ration the rum, and the Articles usually outlined stiff penalties for being drunk during battle.