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Pirates and Other Mysteries of the Caribbean

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Long before Jack Sparrow, there were Blackbeard, Henry Morgan and Anne Bonny among others. And what did they have in common? They all left their marks in numerous vacation destinations we love to visit today.

Pirate Flag
Photo credit: Sovereign to Serf – Roger Sayles


Pirates have marked the history of the Bahamas, so much so that the tourism office has featured the most famous ones on its website. Among them is Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, who used to weave hemp into his beard and light it up to destabilize his opponents. It seems that even his own crew was terrified by his flaming profile!

Even though his career was short lived, about five years, he was able to capture around 40 ships. His travels took him to North Carolina, Virginia and Jamaica, to name a few.

Pirate ship
Photo credit : Joel

Transvestite women

There’s not much talk about female pirates; yet, at least two have ruled in the Caribbean: Mary Read and Anne Bonny. The later was the companion of Rackham, one of the most famous pirates.

Their love story started on New Providence Island, in the Bahamas, when Anne was married. Rackham convinced Anne to leave her husband and follow him at sea. Disguised as a man, she joined the crew, which already included Mary Read.

In 1720, Rackham and his men were imprisoned by Captain Barnet’s troops, at the service of the Governor of Jamaica. All of Rackham’s men were executed, except for the two women, who managed to have their lives spared by claiming they were pregnant. What happened to them afterwards remains a mystery!

Pirate ship at sea
Photo credit: Robert Pittman

Sir Henry Morgan

No, “Captain Morgan” is not only a brand of rum! The actual Henry Morgan left his mark in numerous corners of the Caribbean and Latin America, namely San Andrés Island in Colombia, and Venezuela.

Sent to Cuba by the Governor of Jamaica to capture some Spanish men who had information regarding an eventual attack, Henry Morgan led numerous battles. The attack on Panama City in 1671 remains particularly significant. Defying the order not to invade the Spanish colony, Morgan “the terrible,” as he was nicknamed, attacks the city and reduces it to ashes.

Following this incident, he is sent to England to stand trial. Among the various versions of what came next, many state that Henry Morgan had to buy back his freedom. A few years later, he was named Baron, then Governor of Jamaica in 1680.

Pirate ship wreckage in the Caribbean
Photo credit: Mike Burton

Bartholomew Roberts: man or woman?

Born in 1682, an Englishman, John Roberts, nicknamed “Black Bart,” captured more than 400 vessels throughout his career.  He was also referred to as “Puritan Pirate” because he forbade all immoral conduct aboard his ships.

Considered as one of the greatest pirates of all time, Bartholomew Roberts crossed the Caribbean, but Canadian waters as well, causing casualties particularly off the coast of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. He has also laid down the law near the coast of Africa.

Since he was always well dressed, had good manners, did not drink alcohol nor share his cabin with just anyone, historians have suggested that Bartholomew Roberts could have been a woman, perhaps even Anne Bonny, who would have taken this identity after having escaped death by hanging.

Île dans les Caraïbes
Crédit photo: _dChris

Islands and pirates

Between 1520 and 1720, vessels flying the black flag had approached all of the Caribbean Islands. Strategically positioned, Puerto Rico was undoubtedly the most-invaded one.

Nassau, in the Bahamas, Turtle Island, today’s Haïti, and Port Royal, in Jamaica, were the main ports at the time, and widely visited by all types of people, including celebrities. These were the places where you could recharge, drink and meet others.

What about Martinique? It is said that a certain Bartholomew Roberts hung his governor there to his boat…

Pirate stories are just as captivating in real life!

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The comments and contributions expressed are assumed only by the author. The recommendations, intentions or opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Transat AT Inc. or its affiliates. See terms of use of the Air Transat website.

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