Bananas are a mainstay of most cultures and are the world’s most popular fruit. However, these deliciously yellow treats have no place at sea. Since the 1700’s, it has been widely believed that having a banana on board was an omen of disaster.
In the early 1700’s, during the height of the Spanish’s South Atlantic and Caribbean trading empire, it was observed that nearly every ship that disappeared at sea and did not make its destination was carrying a cargo of bananas. This gave rise to the belief that hauling bananas was a dangerous prospect. There are other documented origins to this superstition as well.
Another explanation for the banana superstition is that the fastest sailing ships used to carry bananas from the tropics to U.S. ports along the East Coast to land the bananas before they could spoil,” Chahoc said. “The banana boats were so fast that fishermen never caught anything while trolling for fish from them, and that’s where the superstition got started."
Another theory is that bananas carried aboard slave ships fermented and gave off methane gas, which would be trapped below deck. Anyone in the hold, including cargoes of imprisoned humanity, would succumb to the poisoned air, and anyone trying to climb down into the hold to help them would fall prey to the dangerous gas.
And finally, one of the better known dangers of bananas at sea, is that a species of spider with a lethal bite likes to hide in bunches of bananas. Crewmen suddenly dying of spider bites after bananas are brought aboard certainly would be considered a bad omen resulting in the cargo being tossed into the sea.
Any of these scenarios could be the reason behind fishermen’s mistrust of the yellow fruit, possibly all of them. Whatever the case may be, it is best that you don’t attempt to bring any bananas on board your next seafaring excursion, just to be safe.
Friday, July 11, 2008
The Evils of the Banana, from Failed Success