Monday, June 30, 2008

Nautical Superstitions

The caul of the head of a new-born child is protection against drowning and will bring the owner good luck.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Horrible Things That Happen at Sea: Dysentary

Good Morning everyone! in lieu of the next installment of Dolphins: Jerks of the Sea which I assure you will be painstakingly researched and at least mildly funny, I'm starting off my next recurring feature Horrible Things That Happen at Sea.
Also called the flux or the bloody flux, dysentery is repulsive and definitely something a person would rather avoid.

Caused by microorganisms that one drinks in unsanitary water, dysentery was common on ships and in the colonies of America. It can either be caused by amoebas or several kinds of bacteria. Characterized by bloody, unrelenting, soul destroying diarrhea, Dysentery presents itself in all corners of the world. Even "Montezuma's Revenge" is a form on amoebotic dysentery.

If you were to get dysentery, the key to keeping yourself alive is hydration with clean water, usually boiled. Of course, modern hospitalization handily manages the infections and hydration. But for pirates back before convenient and plentiful hospitals were often wholly screwed.

Interesting fact:
If a person is fed milk products too early in their recovery from Dysentery they can develop "temporary" lactose intolerance that can last for years.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Nautical Superstitions

The feather of a wren slain on New Years Day, will protect a sailor from dying by shipwreck.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dolphins, Jerks of the Sea: Part 4

Ah Dolphins, how can I point out your flaws this week? This week I'm going to take us back to some earlier dolphin posts of mine and point out tool using. This will lead us into what will fill out this 5 week series (possibly to be revisited when Dolphins shock me once again with their inappropriate behavior =P) .

Part 4: Tools

As I have already established, Dolphins are fond of Bling. Using particularly choice pieces of flotsam to attract mates. But their fascination with material comforts doesn't end there.

Dolphins are possessed of:
"the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience." This definition is separate from social traits or the ability to learn tricks (which can be done through conditioning), which many laymen confuse with animal intelligence. Some research shows that dolphins do exceptionally well in this aspect indicating very high intelligence, even surpassing the intelligence level of a chimpanzee, which is generally believed to be the highest amongst non-human animals. Dolphins also seem capable of discriminating between numbers, which is a highly abstract ability. However, many scientists now tend to rank dolphins about the level of elephants in "intelligence" tests and say that dolphins haven't shown any unusual talent with problem solving compared with the other animals classed with very high intelligence."
That means they're at least capable of stealing your wallet, but that's conjecture on my part. Some species of dolphins have been observed using sponges on their snouts in order to protect them while hunting. They then teach this behavior to their babies so that they won't abrade their delicate nose-skin when eating poisonous stinging things.

Dolphins also create their own toys,

What the hell was that, you ask? That was a stable underwater toroidal air-core vortex rings, that's right, dolphins are way ahead of us in underwater bubble technology.

There are two main methods of bubble ring production: rapid puffing of a burst of air into the water and allowing it to rise to the surface, forming a ring; or swimming repeatedly in a circle and then stopping to inject air into the helical vortex currents thus formed. The dolphin will often then examine its creation visually and with sonar. They also appear to enjoy biting the vortex-rings they've created, so that they burst into many separate normal bubbles and then rise quickly to the surface.
As if all of these things weren't enough, dolphins have the most dangerous tool of all, Language.
Each dolphin has an individual name,
“Each animal develops an individually distinctive signature whistle in the first few months of its life, which appears to be used in individual recognition.”
Since we've established that dolphins have their own names, they probably make up ones for people too, like "dumb ass nose breather number 5" and "fat bringer of dead fish" and "the dude who I will someday bite in the face." Again, conjecture, but I went to elementary school, I know how nicknames work, and if dolphins are anything like us, they're laughing at our expense.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Nautical Superstitions

Throwing stones into the sea will cause great waves and storms.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Privateer, Corsair or Buccaneer?

Often when people talk about pirates, they'll use the following words interchangeably: Privateer, Corsair, Buccaneer, and Pirate. But in truth, they refer to different things. This primer should help clear up misconceptions.

Pirate: [pahy-ruht] noun
1.a person who robs or commits illegal violence at sea or on the shores of the sea.
2.a ship used by such persons.
3.any plunderer, predator, etc.: confidence men, slumlords, and other pirates.
4.a person who uses or reproduces the work or invention of another without authorization.
5.Also called pirate stream. Geology. a stream that diverts into its own flow the headwaters of another stream, river, etc.
Pirate basically is the vague term that refers to all these sea-criminals. It's hard to mis-use, and applies to all sorts of people and activities.

Privateer: [prahy-vuh-teer] noun
1. an armed ship that is privately owned and manned, commissioned by a government to fight or harass enemy ships.

All privateers are pirates, but not all pirates are privateers. Privateers carry letters of marque from a government, basically a get out of jail free card that can be cashed at their ports when that pirate raids ships belonging to their enemies. Many pirates collected several different country's letters of marque, but one man's legitimate businessman or patriotic hero, is another man's pirate and rogue, and when one's allegiances are constantly changing its a recipe for trouble. But on the high seas, trouble is a pirate's middle name.

Buccaneer: [buhk-uh-neer]
1.any of the piratical adventurers who raided Spanish colonies and ships along the American coast in the second half of the 17th century.

When most people think of pirates, they're thinking of buccaneers. Pirates of the Caribbean who raided the Spanish Main, who elected their captains and made names for themselves in the new world. The romantic image of piracy grew out of these rogues, fiercely democratic, often cruel, swashbuckling and prone to burying treasure (ok, prone to spending treasure as soon as they could get to a port). Buccaneers are also called Freebooters, from the dutch term for the pirates that operated in the Caribbean during the period.

The word Buccaneer comes from the french boucanier, which referred to men who hunted and smoked meat alone in the wilderness. These men were common on Hispaniola and other islands where they were often picked up by ships, and traded their wares and fearsome skills at butchery.
Corsair: [kawr-sair] noun
1.a fast ship used for piracy.
2.a pirate, esp. formerly of the Barbary Coast.

Corsairs, also referred to as Barbary Corsairs came from North Africa and ranged as far afield as India and Ireland. They were subject to the sultanates of their home ports but often had a say in their own governance, even before Europe was toying with democracy. Check out this Bicameral Legislature. They often took slaves as part of their crews, but slaves got six months of the year off and often converted to Islam and rose to own their own ships. Upward mobility of this sort was unheard of in Europe and a huge number of single men without other prospects emigrated from Europe to convert to Islam and seek their fortunes.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dolphins, Jerks of the Sea: Part 3

Show me a person that hates dolphins and I'll show you a person with no heart. People love dolphins because they're so much like humans, but we're jerks and so are they. Let's dive right in to:

Part 3: Infanticide

Again, show me a person who hates baby dolphins and well... you see where I'm going.
In the summer of 1997, a dead baby bottlenose dolphin washed onto a Virginia beach. Its body was badly bruised; it had broken ribs and a punctured lung. One telltale clue gave scientists a grim surprise: bite marks that matched the exact pattern of the teeth of an adult bottlenose. Researchers concluded an adult dolphin had murdered a young baby or calf, a practice known in nature as infanticide.

Now scientists are amassing startling evidence that suggests the beloved animals have a violent side as well. Dolphins seem to be killing porpoises, a related sea mammal, and baby dolphins in droves, wielding their long snouts as clubs and their jagged teeth to slash their victims to death. Can it be that dolphin behavior simply resembles that of most large animals, who are capable of being playful or violent by turns?
As if that weren't enough, look at this possible connection to Part 2: Ruthless Killers
But why would bottlenoses kill porpoises? Since harbor porpoises are roughly the same size as baby dolphins, Scottish researchers speculate that dolphins may practice their infant-killing techniques on porpoises. Infanticide is not uncommon in nature, especially among mammals. When food supplies dwindle, a mother gerbil, for example, may eat the weakest of her babies to ensure she has enough energy to produce food for her other infants. Scientists theorize that bottlenose dolphins may have more in common with these "cannibal animals" (see sidebar, right) than was previously thought.
ACK!!!!! Say it ain't so flipper.

Next week it just gets worse.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Nautical Superstitions

A stone thrown over a vessel that is putting out to sea ensures she will never return.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Bartholomew "Black Bart" Roberts

Black Bart was a Welsh Pirate who harried the coasts of the Caribbean and West Africa. Originally named John Roberts he changed his name to sound more piratey. After several years of honest merchanting aboard slave ships he turned pirate for fun and profit.

In an honest service there is thin commons, low wages, and hard labour. In this, plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power; and who would not balance creditor on this side, when all the hazard that is run for it, at worst is only a sour look or two at choking? No, a merry life and a short one shall be my motto.

He was lauded by crews for his magnanimity as well as being "pistol proof", at least according to "Charles Johnson" aka Daniel Defoe who can be credited with creating his fame and that of most pirates you could name off the top of your head.

Black Bart amassed a fleet of pirate ships and was active as a pirate for nearly five years fairly successfully. He pirated the lucrative trade routes off of West Africa and amassed quite a haul of booty, which on his person.

Roberts himself made a gallant figure, at the time of the engagement, being dressed in a rich crimson damask waistcoat and breeches, a red feather in his hat, a gold chain round his neck, with a diamond cross hanging to it, a sword in his hand, and two pairs of pistols slung over his shoulders ...

He was eventually killed in battle off Africa. For battle, he dressed to the nines and led his ship into battle hoping to sail past its pursuer and run for it. Unfortunately, it was not to be and "pistol proof" Roberts proved to not be "Cannon proof."

What has survived Roberts is the articles of his crew, which are among the most famous, even getting a nod in the Pirate's Code of the Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Pirates in the News! June 6, 2008

This week one has to give due respect to Canada, which not only has a Navy, but one in the Gulf of Aden that actually intervened in a pirate attack successfully. See here and here.

"I am convinced that the presence of our aircraft drove them away from the traffic lanes and prevented any further attack today on merchant shipping in the area," said Cmdr. Kelly Larkin, commanding officer of the multi-purpose frigate.

"We continued to monitor those two skiffs and their crew as they were heading back toward Somalia territorial waters."

The Canadian Frigate took images of the skiffs as they ran back to coastal waters, just another example of the multinational efforts in place around the Gulf of Aden.

Moving west, Nigeria is in trouble, this isn't exactly a surprise when you're a fixture in a weekly digest of pirate news, but there are issues tangential to piracy that are plaguing this African nation. Among others, Food shortages are hitting Nigeria hard, and increased piracy is hurting Nigeria's fishing industry (second only to oil, also hit by piracy).

In New York City, a man was arrested for carrying a pirate sword into Macy's Department Store. The man claimed he was on his way to a kickball game where his team of pirates plays, which is likely, many of the hip young moderns play kickball, even the "Paper of Record" has reported on the craze.

Prince William of England is going to take a few months with the Royal Navy this summer in the North Atlantic and Caribbean. The serious article is entertaining, but is it as entertaining as....
No. Probably not as entertaining.

Finally, if your grandmother doesn't have a navy for you to join if you yearn for adventure and you have a few thousand dollars to throw around, just take a nuclear powered ice-breaker to the North Pole.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Space Pirates

From The greatest Space Pirates in modern media.

It's a good article but it neglects at least one group:

Cowboy space pirates. Come on SciFi blog, how could you forget Firefly.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Dolphins, Jerks of the Sea: Part 2

Dolphins! So winsome and likeable, also, such jerks. Last time we covered the lascivious malignancy of these beloved creatures. And while I love the horny sacks of blubber, the juicy details of their transgressions are too good to keep out of the blog. This time we're going further into the seedy underbelly of Dolphin life with....

Part 2: Ruthless Killers

[WARNING: if you're under 18 you should make sure reading this is ok with your parents, that means you Wallace, if your parents haven't looked at this blog yet they should.]

Now, the murderous impulses of Dolphins is going to cover a couple of weeks here, so we'll just get started here with murder based on racism.

That's right, Dolphins are racist pricks. *Pause for GASP* Not all dolphins, and in the history of every human on this earth is an ancestor who killed someone in another tribe. That's just the honest truth of how human society evolved so get over it.

Dolphins have often been accused of killing other cetations, porpoises specifically, and engaging in vicious war against other pods of dolphins of the same and different species.

The differences between dolphins, porpoise and whale species are pretty specific, but basically, if it's less than a certain number of feet long on average the cetation species is a porpoise, if it's on average longer than that but smaller than a Killer Whale, it's a dolphin, and longer than that you've got a whale species. These species, despite occasional violence will often pod together when migrating and get along well together in captivity. Often morale among whales and dolphins actually increases in captivity when more than one cetation species is housed together.

My point here is that the species here are pretty similar, yet dolphins will brutally attack porpoises. That's a jerk move.

Of course, this won't shock you at all when you read next weeks installment...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Nautical Superstitions

Avoid people with red hair when going to the ship to begin a journey.
Redheads bring bad luck to a ship, which can be averted if you speak to the red-head before they speak to you.