Friday, May 30, 2008

Edward Low

Strait from Wikipoetry:
Snip snip goes your lip,
There goes your nose,
And the ears you've had for years,
in the water go.
Edward Low operated out of New England in the early 18th Century, which if you may remember, is the cavalierest century ever.

Although he was active for only three years, Low remains notorious as one of the most vicious pirates of the age, with a reputation for violently torturing his victims before killing them. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle described Low as "savage and desperate," and a man of "amazing and grotesque brutality". The New York Times called him a torturer, whose methods would have "done credit to the ingenuity of the Spanish Inquisition in its darkest days". The circumstances of Low's death, which took place around 1724, have been the subject of much speculation.

Over his short career he captured literally hundreds of ships, and apparently, enjoyed depravity. Of course, when your vocation is piracy a reputation is as good as gold in the treasure chest.

One of his fellow crewmen described time aboard ship thusly:
Of all the pyratical crews that were ever heard of, none of the English name came up to this, in barbarity. Their mirth and their anger had much the same effect, for both were usually gratified with the cries and groans of their prisoners; so that they almost as often murdered a man from the excess of good humour, as out of passion and resentment; and the unfortunate could never be assured of safety from them, for danger lurked in their very smiles.
Various accounts exist of his death, all are contradictory, perhaps he died during a mutiny, perhaps his ship sank, maybe he sailed off into the sunset to retire, the truth is lost to history.

New Pirates of the Burning Sea Character Classes

The more subtle side of making your own pirate adventure is coming to Pirates of the Burning Sea.
Buccaneers are pirates too, but a bit subtler than their burning-bearded brethren. They steal and loot, but also manipulate the black markets. Some would call them gentleman adventurers, though few are true blue bloods. Buccaneers do not have the raw power of cutthroats, but they work well in groups and can help friends and cripple enemies.
Now, buccanneers were no less bloody or brutal than other types of pirates across history, but it's buccanneers we think of when we think of democratically run ships in the Caribbean and it is they who have most influenced the romantic conception of pirates in modern media.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dolphins, Jerks of the Sea: Part 1

Dolphins, I like Dolphins a lot, they're charming, playful, are historically and anecdotally likely to save sailors at sea, and are always a welcome sight to me when out on a ship. They're some of our nearest competition for smartest creature on Earth but as much as I adore these crazy cetations, they're jerks. Plain and simple. Over the next few weeks I plan to examine a few of the things that make these magnificent assholes so neat, and so very like us.

[WARNING! If you're under 18 you should make sure your parents give you permission to read this. That means you, Wallace, your parents will be so mad at me =P ]

Part 1- Horny Little B******ds

Dolphins are one of the only species that engages in sexual activity for purposes other than procreation. Dolphins are often seen mating regardless of whether they are showing signs of fertility. These encounters strengthen pod bonding but also are part of normal playing. Dolphins are even known to have casual encounters with dolphins of the same gender.

But The Pirateologist General, you ask, what makes that such a jerky thing? The answer is the darker side of Dolphin sexuality. Rape and prostitution.

Dolphins have been observed forcing other dolphins into sexual intercourse violently and often in gangs that isolate a single female and assault her. They've also been witnessed flipper high-fiving and jumping for glee as they corner terrified females. Now, this behavior isn't exclusive to dolphins in the animal kingdom; look up ducks those little feathery psychos are cruel. But what makes it exceptional is that dolphins have been known to rape humans.

Mostly, when a dolphin gets excited around humans, it leads to playful bumping and generally being annoying, no more than a gal might expect in a packed bar on a Saturday night. A dolphin's penis is on average about 13 inches and is prehensile (think a monkey's tail), and when excited, a dolphin may prod or grab with it. But sometimes it goes too far... Like this story of a swimmer off the coast of Norway in 1999.

On to Prostitution, Dolphin females will trade sexual favors for choice food, an attractive sponge, what passes for money in dolphin pods. I'll stop here for a moment to allow you to recover from the iniquity... ok, deep breath, good? good.

While dolphin's standards aren't exactly exacting, Jessica Alba who has spent time with dolphins for both movie roles and on her own time, seems to attract their ardour.
She told MTV: "I don't know if anybody knows this but dolphins get excited, even when you are a human being - and they have long, long... (penises).

"I didn't know this until I was being poked by a few of them, which was very rude.

"I think I learned my lesson. I sort of request female dolphins after that because those are horny little b******s."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Nautical Superstitions

Avoid Flat-footed people when beginning a trip.
They, like redheads, are bad luck. The danger can be avoided by speaking to them before they speak to you.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


The wreck of the Santa Margarita off the coast of Florida is being divided up in a Key West Courtroom.
In a courtroom last week in Key West, Columbus's wisdom of the ages was once again vindicated. Spectators were enthralled as riches recovered from the 1622 Fleet Spanish galleon Santa Margarita went on display. The "formed treasures", laid out on a six-foot long table, amounted to a fortune in "most excellent" gold chains, bars and ornaments, ancient silver coins and thousands of pearls.

The scene had Judge James Lawrence King, senior Federal Judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, presiding over the adjudication of artifacts recovered by the historic shipwreck search and recovery group, Blue Water Ventures Key West

Friday, May 23, 2008

Pirates in the News! May 23, 2008

This week has been fairly quiet in the news, not that pirates aren't attacking, just that there's nothing terrific or mind-boggling to report.

A Jordanian Ship was hijacked off the Somali Coast seizing a cargo of sugar.

There was also an interesting interview with a sailor who works aboard a merchant ship in the Gulf of Aden who is back at work after an attack in late April.
“They are crazy, crazy people,” said Abdul Rasheed Noor, a dhow captain recalling the events that led to him and his crew being caught in crossfire between Somali pirates and the Somali army in the Gulf of Aden.

While sailing along the country’s coastline on April 21, his vessel was captured by pirates, who held the crew overnight. Armed security officers from the Somali region of Puntland stormed the ship the following morning and after an hour long gun battle with the pirates rescued the crew members.
Also! Bartholomew "Black Bart" Robert's Birthday was May 17th, he would be 326 and he is still dead. Do I smell a historical biography of Bartholomew Roberts posted in the next week? you'll have to tune in to find out. I know you're all riveted.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Blackbeard Movie likely to be rated for Mature Audiences

This week Variety reported that a movie of Blackbeard's life is in production:

DreamWorks is bringing a project on the life of legendary pirate Blackbeard to the bigscreen.

David Franzoni, who wrote "Amistad" and "Gladiator" for the studio, will pen "Blackbeard," which delves into the life of British buccaneer Edward Teach.

Barry Josephson ("Enchanted") is producing alongside motivational speaker and former Philadelphia 76ers prexy/co-owner Pat Croce, who wrote "Pirate Soul," a book that chronicled the golden era of piracy, which spanned 1690-1730.

Idea for the project was hatched when Josephson enlisted Croce to make a cameo in his 2002 basketball pic "Like Mike." Croce, who also penned the upcoming kids book "My Pop-Pop Is a Pirate," waited until December 2006 to send Josephson a treatment for the film. The pair brought aboard Franzoni, who began working on the pitch after the writers strike ended.

Croce, who owns a pirate museum in Key West, Fla., is collaborating closely with Franzoni on the screenplay.

Oh yes, how long can I tiptoe around the obvious joke in my titles reporting this? Only time will tell, me hearties.

Per Omnia Saecula does the Ocean- The Echeneis

Hey all!
It's a Cross-Posting Spectacular! this time from Per Omnia Saecula's Weird Medieval Animal Monday!

The Echeneis!

According to The Beastmaster, "The echeneis is a fish, half a foot in length, that clings to ships and delays their passage. When this fish attaches to a ship, even in the high winds of a storm the ship will not move, but seems to be rooted in the sea. The echeneis is found in the Indian Sea."

Seriously, that is an impressive fish. Only six inches long and it can stop SHIPS. He must work out a lot.

Enchirius is a little fish unneth half a foot long: for though he be full little of body, nathless he is most of virtue. For he cleaveth to the ship, and holdeth it still stedfastly in the sea, as though the ship were on ground therein. Though winds blow, and waves arise strongly, and wood storms, that ship may not move nother pass. And that fish holdeth not still the ship by no craft, but only cleaving to the ship. It is said of the same fish that when he knoweth and feeleth that tempests of wind and weather be great, he cometh and taketh a great stone, and holdeth him fast thereby, as it were by an anchor, lest he be smitten away and thrown about by waves of the sea. And shipmen see this and beware that they be not overset unwarily with tempest and with storms.

The Encyclopedia Mythica tells us of how this little fishy plagued Caligula.

Today, he survives as the Echeneis naucrates, or "Live Sharksucker," or "Slender Suckerfish."

Neither of which are likely names that he chose for himself. Poor guy.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Nautical Supersitions

A stolen piece of wood mortised into the keel will make a ship sail faster.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Pirates in the News! May 16,2008

So it's been a busy couple weeks for me, but finally, here I am to update you on pirateology's most recent events.An international fund that aids sustainable environment projects has committed $63 million to help preserve Southeast Asia's Coral Triangle from overfishing and climate change, the Asian Development Bank said Tuesday.

The United States has a proposal before the UN Security Council that would allow the US Navy as well as the navies of other countries to enter Somali waters in order to pursue pirate vessels. This comes in the wake of some extremely controversial remarks by higher ups in the Somali Government alleging that the United States is just playing policemen and that the US Sailors were callus and not taking their job seriously.

Contrary to a Somali official’s criticism about American forces, U.S. Navy officials said piracy off that country’s coast is of great concern to the United States and the international community.

Abdullahi Said Samatar, security affairs minister in Somalia’s semiautonomous Puntland region, was critical about the U.S. after Somali forces rescued a hijacked ship carrying food to the impoverished nation.

The ship, called the al-Khaleej, originated in Dubai and was seized by pirates on April 22. Somalians rescued the vessel and arrested seven suspects, who were sentenced Monday to life in prison, The Associated Press reported. Three other suspects were wounded in the rescue.

“It is sad that the American forces off the coast of Somalia are here for fun and are not combating the pirates,” Samatar said afterward.

Without commenting directly on Samatar’s statement, Navy officials said they have put many resources into combating the problem.

Pirate attack forces are slowing oil drilling off Somalia.

Spain's Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero deliberately avoided confirming whether or not a ransom payment had been made to secure the safe release of the 26 crew of the 'Playa de Bakio' tuna fishing boat seized by pirates on Sunday, April 20th. Which is strange because it seems de rigour to pay ransom, France did it, Russians do it, Private Companies do it.
The boat and its crew were released unharmed and arrived in Seychelle Islands earlier this morning, prior to being repatriated.

It was later released that the Spanish government HAD paid a ransom.

Heavily Armed Pirates attacked Thai and South Korean ships near Malaysia and in the Gulf of Aden respectively. And a ship was attacked in the Malacca Strait on May 10.

Greenpeace is busily releasing information about Tuna Pirates. Overfishing being one of the major causes of Oceanic Environmental Decline.
Greenpeace exposed an illegal tuna purse seiner, the Queen Evelyn 168, in a pocket of international waters between Papua New Guinea and the Federated States of Micronesia. This Philippines-flagged vessel was at the site of a transfer of tuna between her sister vessel and a refrigerated mothership, the Kenken 888. It is likely that a transfer of fish at sea involving an illegal vessel was about to occur, but the arrival of Greenpeace prevented it from taking place as the vessels immediately separated and fled. "Transfers of fish at sea are well know to be facilitating pirate fishing around the world now we also have the proof of this in the Pacific. It is unacceptable that this is still allowed to continue", said Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner Lagi Toribau on board the Esperanza. "The pockets of international waters between Pacific island countries are especially prone to pirate activities and should be closed down to all fishing. Transfers of fish should only be allowed to happen in port so they can be monitored properly"

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pirate Ships- The Contessa

This particular ship is one of the coolest DIY projects I've ever seen. I had the good luck to be at the Burning Man Festival in Nevada when The Contessa was sailing the particularly dry sea.

Final assembly occurred on site leading up to Burning Man, the annual event held this year in late August to early September. While the 40-person marching band played on deck, the Spanish galleon sailed around the playa every evening occasionally clocking 35mph. So, what was the reaction? The majority of the over 25,000 people who attended Burning Man proclaimed La Contessa the “coolest thing here!” Wasn’t this Simon’s original ethereal vision of an Old Spanish warship sailing on an ancient, inland sea that became the Black Rock Desert Playa?
I boarded the Contessa at sunset one night and enjoyed myself thouroughly, but really the pictures speak for themselves.

Here's an article about her building if you feel so inclined.

Ship's Bell

The Ship's Bell is as important to the ship symbolically as any other piece of equipment. Lore has it that a ship's soul resides in its bell. A Ship's name is inscribed on the bell and it is rung at various intervals to mark the hours. Hence the terms, six bells, etc...

The US Navy has specific traditions for their bells as well
An old Navy tradition has it that the ship's cook shines the ship's bell and the ship's bugler shines the ship's whistle. This tradition may still be observed in some of the ships of the modern Navy. However, in normal practice, the ship's bell is maintained by a man of the ships' division charged with the upkeep of that part of the ship where the bell is located.
The Bell was rung in case of fire and was the voice of the ship in times of trouble.

Ship's Bell mythology really starts up when dealing with ship's that have sunk at sea. Some believe that until a ship's bell has been recovered, the souls of dead sailors cannot leave the wreck and move on to the afterlife. Others believe that a bell should stay with the ship.

A famous modern bell was aboard the Edmund Fitzgerald that sank in the 1970s. The Bell was recovered and as it was brought up it rang very loudly. The families of those who died inscribed a bell with the names of the 30 men lost and put it in the bell's place in the cold waters of Lake Superior.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Friday, May 9, 2008

Pirate Events, Detroit

When a merchant ship wrecks, there are the literal treasures, tens of thousands of gold coins and the hundreds of pieces of silver.

Then there are those treasures that speak of a way of life as old as the USS Republic, a steamship that sank in the Atlantic 143 years ago. They are items like a clear, thick bottle of Mrs. Winslow's soothing syrup (the soothing agent was morphine) and a porcelain ink pot cover depicting a woman and two children that is so perfectly preserved the woman's pinky finger sticks straight up in the air, unbroken.

At the Detroit Science Center's "Odyssey's Shipwreck! Pirates & Treasure" Runs until September 1.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Pirate's Dilemma

Cropping up all the time, I see references to The Pirate's Dilemma, both a bestselling book and a very popular blog written by Matt Mason. It details how internet piracy and youth culture have influenced the modern economy. Here's Reason Magazine's breakdown of his description of Pirates of the Caribbean as an example of the trends that he profiles in his book.
Mason concentrates on edgier industries, but we need look no further than Disney’s multi-billion-dollar Pirates of the Caribbean franchise for a prime example of a decades-long saga of a major corporation first plagiarizing itself and then encouraging others to do the same.

It began in the late 1950s, when someone at Disneyland dreamed up a wax museum of history’s great pirates, sort of a seafaring Madame Tussaud’s. After the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the herky-jerky robot motions and pre-recorded audio of “animatronics” became all the rage. Disneyland’s wax-pirate exhibit slowly evolved into a creepy, scary, kitschy wonder: a shadowy boat ride through larger-than-life animated pirates going about their dirty business.

After a few decades of mooring itself into the subconscious minds of American children—who among us didn’t duck when the fake cannonballs whistled by?—the Pirates of the Caribbean resurfaced in the early 1990s as a screenplay pitch from Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, whose previous projects included Aladdin and Shrek, paradigmatic specimens of the self-aware, self-referential, pop-literate era of animated features.

In 2003, Disney finally turned the adaptation of the theme-park ride into celluloid. The rest is history: Swaggery drunk Johnny Depp (in a character openly lifted from Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards) spawned a trilogy of films, the second of which made an astonishing $1,066,179,725 in worldwide box office. Halloween costumes abounded, some Disney-issued and some not. Some were simply labeled “pirate” but looked a lot like Sparrow/Richards.

At least eight video games inspired by the film have appeared, with varying degrees of official sanction. A mobile phone game released by Disney’s Internet unit received lackluster reviews while a popular, unauthorized Xbox game borrowed the title, The Black Pearl, and little else. But instead of suing the peglegs off their unauthorized competitors, Disney simply pulled alongside and joined the melee with its own (free) Pirates of the Caribbean online role-playing game, fighting it out on the pirates’ own terms. Disney has stopped seeing at least some of the world’s pirates and remixers as thieves, and started seeing them as opportunities for a vast, multi-faceted marketing campaign.

Using the customizable characters from the role-playing game, fans were soon creating original YouTube videos—digital clips of pirates skewering British officers on their cutlasses, for example—from within the world of Pirates of the Caribbean Online. Some of the best were made by the 10,000 fans given passwords for the beta test of the online game at a pre-screening of the third movie, making them officially sanctioned pirate remixers (many of whom take their role literally, showing up to the screening in eye patches and tricorns).

Lots of these fan-fiction films have developed narratives of their own. They are part of a growing movement of machinima, where fans use video game environments to create their own animated movies, many of them borrowing characters or settings from Hollywood blockbusters. Meanwhile, the unauthorized Xbox game has in turn become the basis for 14 (and counting) user-modified versions at the online community.

In 2006, completing the great circle of recycling, Disneyland altered the original Pirates of the Caribbean ride to include an animatronic Johnny Depp.

In an effort to explain this mash-up landscape, Mason turns, with mixed success, to the last days of disco, to the early days of tagging New York subway cars, and to economic game theory. The most apt parallel, though, is to an industry known for its fickleness. Video and music companies are slowly realizing something that the world of fashion—with its markedly more relaxed attitude toward intellectual property—has always known. In the words of Coco Chanel, who long ruled the fashion world with an iron fist and a quilted handbag, “a fashion that does not reach the streets is not a fashion.”

Monday, May 5, 2008

Pirate Symbols: Skeletons

The Skeleton, very like the hourglass is a symbol that was used on pirate flags to intimidate other ships, and show that fearsome pirates were about to board their ship and that they should just give up.

Many famous pirates employed this symbol on their flag, such as Blackbeard, Edward Low and Black Bart Roberts.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Leggy Lotharios and Underwater Bling, Flirting among sea creatures.

Several articles have come out recently that show some entertaining and charming mating rituals among sea-creatures.
Octopus couples hold hands!!!
For decades, scientists have viewed octopuses as unromantic loners, with mating habits nearly devoid of complex behavior. But new research from the University of California, Berkeley, has found that at least one species of octopus engages in such sophisticated lovemaking tactics as flirting, passionate handholding and keeping rivals at arms' length.

"This is not a unique species of octopus, which suggests others behave this way," said Roy Caldwell, a professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley and co-author of the study.

In the wild, researchers observed macho octopuses that didn't just mate with the first female that crossed their path. Many picked out a specific sex partner and jealously guarded her den for several days, warding off rivals to the point of strangling them if they got too close. When flirting or fighting, they would signal their manliness by displaying striped body patterns.

But Cephalopods were not the only creatures whose dating displays were analyzes by scientific voyeurs...

Dolphins Love their Bling:

Amazon river dolphins, also known as botos or pink river dolphins (Inia geoffrensis), live mostly off fish in the Amazon River basin, with the occasional turtle or crab.

The botos had often seemed to play with items such as sticks or lumps of hard clay, thrashing them against the surface of the water or tossing them with flicks of their heads.

One day scientists noticed that three botos that held objects in their mouths were all adult males. This prompted speculation that such behavior might not be play at all.

Martin and his colleagues found the overwhelming majority of those who carried items were adult males, which are larger and pinker than females.

"It's particularly interesting that the complexity of this behavior in these dolphins is considerably greater than that in chimps," Martin said. "Chimp males break off branches, thrash them around and make a lot of noise to show off how macho they are — bit like blokes with big motorbikes and Ferraris, I guess. Botos, however, are much more subtle, and often use their objects in what appears to be a ritualistic way."

Males typically held objects when there were adult females present.

"This species has a mythical reputation for enchanting and seducing women in Amazon communities, and you could believe that they really are enchanting their own females with this object-carrying behavior," Martin said.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The British East India Trading Company

The British East India Company ( or the East India Trading Company) was granted its charter as a joint-stock company by Elizabeth I on December 31, 1600. It was originally given a 21-year monopoly on trade with India, and in tandem with the British Empire, was able to parlay this into the governmental and military rule over India.

The company initially made its fortune trading in tea and spices that were in extremely high demand back in Europe. China’s policy of isolationism meant that the East India Company couldn’t trade directly with them for the precious tea that they alone could supply. However, the East India Company’s control over the subcontinent did mean they had something that China wanted—opium. Through smugglers and pirates the East India Company traded opium for tea and made a mint.

The British Government made efforts to curb the power of the company in 1784, 1813, and again in 1833 with various acts of parliament that differentiated their political and commercial activities and removed it as the implementer of the colonial government of India. Their business practices led to several wars between England and China, England and France and others. At the time of the American Revolution the company’s flag was identical to the Union Flag of Great Brittan--its influence remained that vast.

While their practices were not always savory, their skill in management became the model for the English government’s bureaucracy at home and around the world. When it was finally dissolved by the British government in 1874, The Times reported, "It accomplished a work such as in the whole history of the human race no other company ever attempted and as such is ever likely to attempt in the years to come."