Wednesday, April 01, 2009

I've always been interested in the golden age of piracy (though the modern age is just as fascinating to me for different reasons), probably an offshoot of my general curiosity regarding famous outlaws through history. Or just a byproduct of my colossal dorkery. In any case, it's fascinating to me the lengths people will go to live outside of the law. I've never romanticized the notion of piracy in any era, least of all the 17th and 18th centuries. There is really no aspect of that lifestyle that appeals to me. I have a terrible aversion to scurvy and losing limbs. I'm not a very good fighter. I hate rum. and make no mistake, these were by and large awful, awful people. But I love the idea of these drunken madmen just infuriating the largest and most powerful forces that the world had ever seen at the time. But anyway, that's neither here nor there.
National Geographic just put out some pictures of artifacts found on what's almost certain to be the Queen Anne's Revenge, which was discovered sometime in the late '90s. This is probably the most famous pirate ship that ever existed, and almost certainly the basis for the ship in those Johnny Depp movies*. It's also one of the few pirate ships whose name I know**, despite its relatively short lifespan as a pirate vessel.

Anyway, check out some artifacts here and at the link above. Then eat some fruit to avoid scurvy.

This reminds me that I should point out that I actually can't stand the weird hipster obsession with pirates and acting like pirates and Talk like a Pirate day and whatnot (I'm looking at you, Portland). While it's cute to run up the Jolly Roger (which might be the most boring pirate flag ever), never forget that these were reprehensible people that kidnapped, tortured, murdered, raped, maimed, etc... It's fun to paint them as Robin Hoods, but in most cases they were barely literate thugs. For every fun-loving and playful corsair, there is a sadist like Edward Low that really nobody should be emulating. Anyway, enough of that.

*what happened with those? The first one was so much fun, then they followed it up with overwrought mythologies and ubermenshian crap... much like the Matrix trilogy, now that I think about it. Maybe we should pass a law that in the case of trilogies, all works must be complete and hashed out before the first day of filming starts.

**Others would be Bartholomew Roberts' Royale Fortune and Captain Kidd's Adventure Galley

Picture above: Howard Pyle's depiction of Blackbeard's last battle. In addition to being probably the definitive pirate artist (there's a whole book, check it out), he was also a profound influence on N.C. Wyeth, which in turn makes him one of the most important influences of his era. Plus, this. So he's okay in my book.

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