Organized Crime

17 04 2008

Stede_BonnetPirates of old were much more organized and brazen than the ones that society seems to focus on. Much different than the loners at home in the Caribbean, these Indian Ocean pirates in the 1300s embraced piracy as a way of life. Whole communities of pirates would board their ships with their wives and children, usually about 100 ships. Most of them would scatter and spend the whole summer wreaking havoc with merchant ships and committing other vile and sundry acts of piracy.

Sometimes, however, 20 or so pirate ships would line up 5 miles apart in the ocean, effectively covering a good 100 miles of water. If one pirate spotted a ship, the other ships down the line would be signalled and the merchant vessel would be overwhelmed. The pirates wouldn’t harm the sailors intentionally, and after taking their cargo they would let them go telling them something like “Go and fetch another cargo. Then, with luck, you may give us some more.”

Some of the more wily pirates would take tamarind with them, a spice or juice made from the pods of the tamarind tree. When they apprehended a merchant vessel, the pirates would make the merchants drink tamarind and sea-water. This would make them throw up, and the pirates would sift through their vomit for precious stones and small valuables like that. It was a common habit among merchants to swallow some of the smaller bits of treasure when they realized they were going to be boarded.

One of the kings of the area was even known to have had a deal with a lot of pirates. He wouldn’t be aggressive against them or attempt to stop them if they gave him all of the horses that they pirated. Horses were, in fact, a large portion of their loot because of the fact that India didn’t breed very many horses at all so they were always shipping large numbers of them in.

Let it be known, however, that the merchants were no easy prey. Pirates were common enough that they would go out to sea heavily armed and ready to fight. Many a pirate was defeated by the very merchant it was planning on looting.

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2 responses

17 04 2008
Amy

Hmm, very fascinating. How did you learn all this?

17 04 2008
palivizumab

I read cool books. 🙂

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