Thursday, 5 January 2012

Interesting Pirates Myths

A while ago I read some interesting facts about pirates – among them, some common misconceptions.

For example, did you know that the reason pirates wear eye patches isn’t because they've lost an eye?

As well as peg legs and hooks being also extremely rare – there weren’t many one eyed pirates around. In fact, the eye patch was primarily used when raiding other ships. After making it across onto the enemy’s deck, going from the bright light of day into the dark, poorly lit interior of a ship would render you essentially blind - as it would take time for your eyes to get adjusted to the darkness. During which time, any enemies laying in wait down there could easily get the drop on you.

The solution? An eye patch to cover one eye prior to battle - so that once you get down in to the darkened interior you can lift it up and have one eye good to go. A similar piece of advice given to me in my youth on a CCF night exercise (we did that kind of thing at my school) about looking at flares that were shot up in the sky. If you had to look up at them, do it with one eye covered so that you wouldn't end up being blinded in the dark for the next few minutes. Simples.

Other interesting pirate related trivia: pirates didn’t speak with the so-called ‘pirate’ accent that goes ‘Arrrrrr’.
This was first made popular by the actor Robert Newton who played a pirate with a (slightly over the top) West Country accent in the 1950 Disney adaptation of Treasure Island; and has been perpetuated by nearly all other pirates in fiction since, its legacy including the Pirates of the Caribbean movies for the younger generation as well as an ‘International Talk Like a Pirate Day’.

Another quick one – pirates didn't hoard or bury their treasure. Any bounties gained from plundering were promptly spent on much needed supplies for their seafaring, particularly medical supplies which were essential to surviving long sea voyages. There have only been about three recorded instances of treasure being buried and in all these cases it was unearthed pretty much straight away, rendering the action pretty useless.

It makes you wonder just how these myths have became so ingrained and remain inseparable from the idea we have of ‘pirates’ in popular culture today. Why are pirates continually thought of this way?

The answer: they just Arrrrrrrrrr!

Sorry - couldn’t resist.

4 Jan 2012

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