Captain Kidd’s pirate ship to become underwater museum

Captain Kidd, pirate, pirates, pirate ship
The submerged wreck of Captain Kidd’s pirate ship will become a “Living Museum of the Sea” reports Science Daily.

The Quedagh Merchant was found a couple of years ago just off the coast of the Dominican Republic. It’s only 70 feet from the shore of Catalina Island and rests in ten feet of water, so it’s a perfect destination for scuba divers or even snorkelers.

Underwater signs will guide divers around the wreck, and like in above-ground museums, there’s a strict “don’t touch the artifacts” policy. Often when shipwrecks are found the discoverers keep the location secret to protect them from looting. Hopefully this bold step of allowing visitors to swim around such an important wreck will help inform the public without any harm being done. One can only hope!

Captain Kidd is one of the most famous and most controversial of pirates. For much of his career he was a privateer, a legal pirate with permission from the King of England to loot enemy ships and hunt down other pirates. Privateers were one of the ways the big empires of the day harassed one another.

Lots of stories of his evil nature have come down to us. He was supposed to have been brutal to his crew and was even reported to have buried his Bible, as is shown in this public domain image courtesy Wikimedia Commons. He’s also supposed to have buried treasure all over the world. How much of this is true and how much is legend is still hotly debated by historians.

The Quedagh Merchant was an Armenian vessel carrying a rich treasure of gold, silver, and fine cloth that Kidd captured in 1698 off the coast of India. Although the ship was Armenian and was under the protection of the French Crown, it was captained by an Englishman. This got Kidd’s status changed from privateer to pirate and from then on he was wanted by the English authorities.

Kidd left the Quedagh Merchant in the Caribbean with a trusted crew as he sailed off on another ship to New York to clear his name, but his “trusted crew” looted the vessel and sunk it. His loss was posterity’s gain.

Kidd shouldn’t have gone to New York. He was lured to Boston by a supposed friend and then arrested and shipped to England to be put on trial for piracy. The judge found him guilty and sentenced him to hang. His body was left hanging over the River Thames in an iron cage called a gibbet as a warning to others. The museum will be dedicated on May 23, the 310th anniversary of Kidd’s execution.

[Image of Captain Kidd rotting in the gibbet courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

10 breeds of pirate – Somalis to Vikings to Japanese Pirate Ninjas

pirate

A yacht carrying a quartet of Americans was recently seized by Somali pirates, the latest in a string of hijackings that reaches back millenia. According to MSNBC, the seized yacht, the “S/V Quest,” is owned by Jean and Scott Adam – a couple on a worldwide quest distributing bibles. While they no doubt expected to spread the word far and wide, they were certainly not expecting to be boarded by Somali pirates off the coast of Oman in the Arab sea. The waters along the horn of Africa are a hotbed of piracy, and travelling by boat in this region is about as reckless as booking a 2 week holiday in Mogadishu.

The Somali pirates are the modern day face of an enterprise that has existed for centuries. Piracy has been part of seafaring culture since man first took to the open water. As early as 1400 BC, Lukka sea raiders from Asia Minor began committing acts of piracy throughout the Mediterranean. These early pirates were known simply as the “Sea Peoples.” Aside from these early innovators of seaward sabotage, many groups and clans have sailed under the banner of terror on the high seas. The Vikings innovated the craft, the Barbary corsairs elevated it to an art, and the pirates of the Caribbean made it famous. Many other groups, operating in the shadows of history, took to piracy on the high seas. From dark age plundering to modern day terrorism, some of these groups of pirates include:The Vikings
Hailing from Scandinavia, the Vikings pillaged much of western Europe and northern Africa. The Norsemen covered a range from Russia to Newfoundland in their graceful longships, and pioneered piracy in the middle ages. They were the original world explorers – helmeted plunderers with a thrist for adventure.

The Wokou
Around the same time Vikings were wreaking havoc in Europe, these Japanese pirates, known as Wokou, began terrorizing the Chinese and Korean coast. Most of these pirates were Ronin, merchants, and smugglers. Allegedly, some were even ninjas, throwing a paradoxical spin on the classic “pirate versus ninja” debate. Why choose when you can just be both?

Barbary Corsairs
In response to the moors being ran out of Europe, many took up residence in northern Africa. Some of these displaced seamen became pirates and raided towns and vessels in Spain, Italy, France, and beyond. The infamous Redbeard, Oruc Reis, was a notable Barbary Corsair, and sacked many coastal Italian towns.

Madagascar Pirates
Off the eastern coast of Africa, Madagascar was a lawless place during the golden age of pirate pirateering. Since no European countries colonized Madagascar, the island was an ideal spot for pirates to lay low and plot the next heist. Allegedly, the pirate utopia of “Libertalia” was located on Madagascar. According to pirate lore, “Libertalia” was a communist colony governed by pirates for pirates, where all shared in the booty.

Orang Laut
Originally from the Spice Islands and settling in modern day Malaysia, these sea gypsies began raiding the strait of Malacca over 500 years ago. Eventually, they fell into a protective role, policing the waters for the Sultanates of Johor and Malacca. Unlike many pirates that called solid ground home, the Orang Laut lived exclusively on the water.

Classical Carribean Pirates
The pirate cliche is the Caribbean pirate, and the spokesperson is Johnny Depp’s character in Pirates of the Caribbean. The Caribbean pirate era began when Aztec gold bound for Spain was seized by pirates in the early 16th century. This escalated into the golden age of pirateering in the 17th and 18th centuries. Most Caribbean pirates came from European origins.

Bugi Pirates of Sulawesi
The term boogeyman originated from the orchid shaped island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. The Bugi pirates of southern Sulawesi were so feared that Dutch and English sailors brought home tales of horror to scare misbehaving children. The Bugianese were among the first to explore Papua New Guinea and northern Australia.

Sea Dayak of Borneo
Notorious headhunters, the sea dayaks terrorized the waters of the South China Sea, targeting vessels passing from Hong Kong to Singapore. In the mid nineteenth century, James Brooke and an army of Malays wiped out many of these pirates. Today, these people are known as the Iban and live in the old rainforests of Borneo.

Chinese Pirates
The most powerful pirate ever was a Chinese woman. In the early 19th century, an ex-prostitute namedpirate Cheng I Sao commanded a fleet of more than 1,500 ships – larger than many navies. According to CNN, she was an adept business person and controlled her fleet via a proxy named Chang Pao. She developed spy networks, created economic agreements with mainland farmers for supplies, and generally revolutionized the piracy business model. Her crews stalked the waters of the South China Sea.

Somali Pirates
The modern pirate hails from Somalia – a crossroads of the derelict. With more warlords than laws, Somalia is a disaster state. The government has been more a fleeting idea than a real thing for the last 20 years, and it shows. Warlords control fleets that operate out of coastal towns, amassing ships, arms, and wealth. The pirates use small boats and assault rifles to board both passenger and cargo ships, taking hostages, booty, or both.

Piracy causes roughly $15 billion in losses worldwide per year. The most trafficked areas for modern day piracy include the South China Sea, the Gulf of Aden (off the horn of Africa), the Niger Delta, and the infamous Strait of Malacca.

flickr image via cesargp

Shanghai to get a Disney theme park: Does it need one?

In five to six years, Shanghai will have joined Tokyo, Hong Kong and Paris as a city out of the U.S. with a Disney theme park. China may or may not need a Disney theme park, but Disney’s aim is that the Shanghai location will help create a mighty want for Disney products among the country’s population.

With 1.5 billion people in China, Disney is hoping that the big bucks it will cost to dazzle the multitudes will pay off in other avenues. As anyone who has ever been to a Disney property knows, the theme park is not just a way to be wowed for a day or two; it’s a gateway into other Disney habits. The hope is that the wow moments are enough to make you crave more.

For example, not only is the Pirates of the Caribbean ride now one more place to get a Johnny Depp fix as Captain Jack Sparrow, it’s a marketing tool for all things having to do with the movie. As Depp, aka, Captain Jack Sparrow makes appearances throughout the ride, and then talks so provocatively right before the end, the connection to the movie is not subliminal advertising–the type where an image triggers off our subconscious.

Nope, by the time we climb out of the ride at the gift shop, it’s no surprise to see shelves laced with every sort of Pirates of the Caribbean merchandise that has ever been cranked out. (Ironically, most of it is probably cranked out in China.) There’s no other way to end this particular ride but to push on through the gift shop, not the easiest thing to do without a purchase when one has a child in tow who now has Captain Jack Sparrow on the brain.

Disney is hoping that the Chinese families who fork out the money to enter its theme park will leave wanting more Disney. DVDs, video games, touring musicals and more are the perfect Disney fix for creating some of Disney’s magic back at home.

For the Chinese government, the hope is that Disney in Shanghai will provide tens of thousands of jobs for people who are in need of viable employment.

Because it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks sometimes, this Disney park will incorporate Chinese history and stories into some of its attractions. Many classic Disney rides will be included. I bet Captain Jack Sparrow will be speaking Chinese. Ni hao, Johnny!

Big up Kingston – Pirates & Parrotfish in Port Royal

It’s June 1692, and you’re a resident of Port Royal, a thriving settlement in the harbor of modern-day Kingston. As you gaze at the cerulean-blue harbor, your eyes linger on the silhouettes of several privateer ships. The English crown has given these ships free reign to prey upon enemy Spanish galleons loaded with gold and silver, and they’ve taken to the task with relish. In Port Royal, the privateers’ wealth and debauchery is visible everywhere. Drunken sailors stumble about, pockets bursting with pieces of eight, vessels of overflowing red wine spilling down the cobblestone. Meanwhile, ladies of the night slink from behind darkened doorways, beckoning you towards illicit pleasures.

Yet amid the usual debauchery, something feels amiss. The earth you stand upon suddenly feels unstable, vibrating with increasingly angry amplifications. Earthquake! Torrents of seawater froth with whitecaps. Shrieks of terror emanate from panicked residents. Without warning, a huge chunk of Port Royal begins to slip into the sea, swallowing a mass swarming humanity and buildings like an angry sea monster.

More than 300 years later and the ground beneath Port Royal is again calm. But much like the aftermath of that fateful disaster in 1692, it’s clear that the epicenter of Jamaica’s wealth and influence has shifted elsewhere. The fearsome buccaneers like Henry Morgan are no more. Instead, what’s been left behind is a sleepy fishing village just a few miles from Kingston proper, littered with the remains of crumbling pirate forts and some of the best seafood anywhere in the Caribbean. If you’re ready to investigate the real history of pirates in the Caribbean, click below for more.
Fort Charles + Giddy House
At one time Port Royal was home to several military installations. These forts not only guarded Kingston’s harbor from enemy attacks, they also provided safe haven for pirates preying on Spanish ships in the Caribbean. Following the 1692 earthquake, at least three of Port Royal’s forts simply disappeared into the sea.

Today, Fort Charles is Port Royal’s only remaining military fort and among the best preserved in the Caribbean. First built in 1655, the base has played host to some Britain’s most famous naval leaders, including Horatio Nelson. It’s also coincidentally the name of the fort in Pirates of the Caribbean. Coincidence? Visitors to the site can arrange tours of the grounds including some fearsome cannons and a small but well-organized museum complete with historic Port Royal artifacts. Better visit quick – at the time of our visit, authorities mentioned plans to turn the site into a legit tourist complex complete with peg-legs, parrots and eyepatches. Shiver me timbers?

Also worth an amusing five minutes of your time is the Giddy House (pictured above). Built in the 1880’s as an ammunition storehouse, the Giddy House was the victim of yet another earthquake in 1907, which left the structure intact but slanted at a rather odd angle. The slanted floors make for a fun-house style amusement and leaves many visitors “giddy” with laughter, hence its odd name.

Gloria’s Seafood
Just outside the gates of Fort Charles lies Gloria’s, yet another highly recommended Port Royal destination. After you’ve worked up an appetite learning about pirates, make a stop at this rustic seafood shop complete with al fresco seating and views of Kingston harbor. A plate of curried parrotfish with okra (right), a glass of Ting soda, and the sound of waves crashing along the shore makes for the perfect Jamaican lunch.

As you finish your meal, spend an hour or two exploring the neighborhood’s quiet and rustic charm, including the peeling facades of pastel colored buildings and clumps of tiny wooden fishing boats nestled on the shore. Port Royal today may no longer flow with stolen Spanish treasure, but its unassuming charms remain very much intact, waiting to be discovered.

Gadling was recently invited by the Spanish Court Hotel to visit Kingston, Jamaica’s unexplored capital of music, food and culture. We’ve been bringing you our observations on all this up-and-coming city has to offer. Though the trip was paid, all opinions remain our own. You can read our previous “Big up Kingston” posts HERE.