Who wouldn’t want to be a pirate? Sailing the endless sea on exciting adventures,
seeking a mystical treasure and the breeze whispers tales of freedom. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, that’s not the life of a pirate.
It’s the movie of the life of a pirate. But, I am getting ahead of myself.
First of all, what is a pirate? A pirate is basically an armed robber on the sea or any other body of water.
They come in three different flavours: Buccaneers, Privateers and Corsairs.
So which is which and what’s the difference? Buccaneers are 17th-century hunters-gone-pirates on the island of Hispaniola; Privateers are armed sailors who behave just like pirates,
but carry a piece of paper saying: “Dear Foreign Ship, These gentlemen can rob you, for you are the enemy of my country. Tough luck.” Signed: The King; and Corsairs are sometimes privateers, sometimes pirates,
who are sometimes from the Mediterranean and sometimes French. Everything clear? Good. Piracy has been going on since there have been things of value,
and vessels to transport them. But when we hear the word “Pirate”, what comes to mind is not modern pirates in speed boats in the Gulf of Guinea, it’s Europeans terrorising the waters of the Caribbean and the North American east coast, during the Golden Age of Piracy. Europeans were moving incredible amounts of things
and people between Africa, the New World, and Europe, because… colonialism.
And due to all this blue stuff here, both had to be transported by ships… lots of ships.
For pirates, that meant easy money. Scarcely manned merchant vessels were no match
for a ship packed with pirates armed to the teeth. They would chase or ambush them,
threaten or beat the crew into surrender, and take everything that might be of use.
Loot was usually, not as you might assume, buried in a super secret place, but rather, due to poor personal finance skills,
wasted for a bit of hollow amusement. The growing piracy threat was even accelerated
by European countries encouraging privateering, to hurt competing colonial powers.
Needless to say, everybody was so very much surprised, when privateers, who made their living by robbing ships,
after being asked to stop robbing ships, because: “It’s cool. We’re at peace now”,
just continued robbing ships. Most pirates started out as regular seamen, [Jester chuckles] DIdn’t we all? [Silence] Please continue. The average pirate was an experienced sailor in his 20s, owed to both the required physical fitness for work aboard a ship, and the dismal life expectancy in the business. Sailors were regularly decimated by the many diseases going around when you are exposed to both Tropical climates,
and sub-par hygienic environments. Not that the life of a pirate was any better,
but at least, there was money to be made. For the masses of abused dirt-poor sailors,
the step into piracy wasn’t a big one. [Music] In a time when the lands of Europe were still in the hands of
kings and queens, pirates let democracy reign. They voted on important decisions, elected a captain,
and deposed him if his pirating was deemed unsatisfactory. Pirates had a code, a set of rules with dos and don’ts,
drawn up and signed by the crew. But different from what you might have been led to believe,
a ship’s rules weren’t merely guidelines. If you broke them, you were punished,
and often, that… meant your head. One way of realising the starkest of intentions is marooning,
leaving someone on an island far off from civilisation, without water, or food, or internet.
Some lucky devil might be discovered and rescued by a passing ship. If that didn’t happen, not super great.
Walking the plank, however, was not in a pirate’s thick punishment playbook. If you think about it, why would you go through
all the hassle of fastening a plank to the side of a ship, only so you can go…
[Snarls] Instead, pirates just grabbed people and
threw them overboard. “That’s done. Lunch time!” A pirate ship would carry a number of flags, for signalling,
displaying its nationality, or tricking victims into approaching it. Pirates used many a flag, but only one went down in history,
as THE Pirate Flag. The Jolly Roger, a sight that made every sailor’s blood freeze.
What about now? Still intimidating? Pirates never held a referendum
to crown the one true pirate flag. So until “skull and crossbones” became the standard,
they experimented, with darts, hearts, drops of blood, cutlasses, hourglasses, green flag, red flag,
white flag, and many more. Fortunately, all bad things must come to an end. Pirate attacks had been a thorn in the side of
Europe’s naval powers for decades, until they decided to strike back.
Those willing to quit the pirate life were pardoned, the rest were hunted down, arrested,
and sent straight to their maker. From the up to 2000 pirates that had roamed
the waters of the Carribean and North America, virtually none remained, and thus,
the Golden Age of Piracy came to an end. As time marched on, the threat faded,
and pirates were filed in our collective consciousness not under armed robbers, but adventurers.
We found fun and excitement in pirate stories, exploration of exotic places, hidden treasures, and the open sea.
Today, we put the Jolly Roger on coffee mugs, and kids run around with eyepatches and
plastic hooks for hands. The truth is, we like pirates now. Let’s just hope we’ll never meet one. [End screen]