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The other day was the 10th anniversary of International Talk Like A Pirate Day which, according to the Talk Like A Pirate website (yes there really is one) got its start when

“Dave Barry mentioned us in his nationally syndicated newspaper column in 2002, [and] what once was a goofy idea celebrated by a handful of friends has turned into an international phenomenon that shows no signs of letting up”

This year even Krispy Kreme Doughnuts joined in the celebration.

Krispy Kreme’s rules were simple:

  1. Talk like a pirate or wear an eye patch to a participating Krispy Kreme shop for one free Original Glazed doughnut.
  2. Come to a participating Krispy Kreme location in full pirate costume for one free dozen Original Glazed doughnuts.

I had hoped to see pirates running all over town, gathering their doughnut booty from the local Krispy Kremes, but I never laid eyes on a single pirate all day.  I was sorely disappointed.  But it did get me to thinking about pirates.

As a kid I was fascinated by pirate lore.  I read everything I could find about pirates and watched all the movies.  The Black Pirate, Captain Blood, Black Swan, Treasure Island, Sea Hawk – any movie that had pirates in it was a sure hit for me.  Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power were all fantastic pirates and filled my boyhood fantasies of adventure on the high seas.  But the pirate who fascinated me most was Blackbeard.

From his long, black hair to his tricorner hat, his braided beard and bandolier packing six pistols, Blackbeard the pirate knew how to impart fear with just his image.  Blackbeard’s career as a pirate wasn’t long, but by using psychological warfare he left quite a lasting impression.  Simply put, Blackbeard let his reputation precede him.  He was known to insert slow-burning cannon fuses underneath his hat, so that he would be encircled by smoke. The image he created caused the sailors on the merchant ships under attack to swear they saw Satan himself approaching them.

 

According to The Pirates Own Book, an account of several infamous pirates written by Charles Ellms in 1837:

He derived (his) name from his long black beard, which, like a frightful meteor, covered his whole face, and terrified all America more than any comet that had ever appeared. He was accustomed to twist it with ribbon in small quantities, and turn them about his ears. In time of action he wore a sling over his shoulders with three brace of pistols. He stuck lighted matches under his hat, which appeared on both sides of his face and eyes, naturally fierce and wild, made him such a figure that the human imagination cannot form a conception of a fury more terrible and alarming; and if he had the appearance and look of a fury, his actions corresponded with that character.

He was also inventive with his weaponry as well.  Judging by findings at what is believed to be the wreck of his ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, (just off the coast of North Carolina) munitions not only included typical pieces of ordinance such as cannons, cutlasses and blunderbusses but also two-headed cannon balls and lethal packages of shrapnel.  Researchers found combinations containing nails, glass and evidence of canvas indicating a bag of shrapnel all fused together by lead.  When this was shot out of a cannon, it would have burst open and sprayed the opponent’s crew with a debris field thus sweeping the deck clear and creating general havoc among his victims.

Also found were cannon balls that were linked together either with barbells or bolts of metal. These would also cause chaos and mayhem when shot, spinning through the air and damaging enemy ships. Blackbeard and his crew had limited access to traditional military munitions, which is why they used this creative ammunition. After all, its not like they could just pull into a port to restock and reload.  All of a sudden those scenes in the movies where the pirates are loading everything but the kitchen sink into the cannons are starting to have a ring of truth about them.

I think the next time I am up towards Beaufort, North Carolina I am going to have to visit the North Carolina Maritime Museums and Queen Anne’s Revenge and see if I can’t rekindle that old passion for pirates I had so long ago. How about you?

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