The Pirate (Soldiers of the Universal Guard Book 1)

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Pirates tended to kill few people aboard the ships they captured; usually they would kill no one if the ship surrendered, because if it became known that pirates took no prisoners, their victims would fight to the last breath and make victory both very difficult and costly in lives. In contrast, ships would quickly surrender if they knew they would be spared. In one well-documented case heavily armed soldiers on a ship attacked by Thomas Tew surrendered after a brief battle with none of Tew's man crew being injured.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, once pirates were caught, justice was meted out in a summary fashion, and many ended their lives by "dancing the hempen jig", a euphemism for hanging. Public execution was a form of entertainment at the time, and people came out to watch them as they would to a sporting event today.

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Newspapers reported details such as condemned men's last words, the prayers said by the priests, and descriptions of their final moments in the gallows. In the cases of more famous prisoners, usually captains, their punishments extended beyond death. Their bodies were enclosed in iron cages gibbet for which they were measured before their execution and left to swing in the air until the flesh rotted off them- a process that could take as long as two years.

While piracy was predominantly a male occupation throughout history, a minority of pirates were female. Additionally, women were often regarded as bad luck among pirates. It was feared that the male members of the crew would argue and fight over the women. On many ships, women as well as young boys were prohibited by the ship's contract , which all crew members were required to sign. Because of the resistance to allowing women on board, many female pirates did not identify themselves as such. Anne Bonny, for example, dressed and acted as a man while on Captain Calico Jack's ship. Unlike traditional Western societies of the time, many Caribbean pirate crews of European descent operated as limited democracies.

Pirate communities were some of the first to instate a system of checks and balances similar to the one used by the present-day United States and many other countries.

The first record of such a government aboard a pirate sloop dates to the 17th century. To date three identifiable pirate shipwrecks have been discovered. One is the Whydah Gally , a former slave ship seized on its maiden voyage from Africa by the pirate captain "Black Sam" Bellamy. Since the Wydah collection has been touring as part of the exhibit "Real Pirates" sponsored by National Geographic. The second is the Queen Anne's Revenge , the flagship of the infamous pirate Blackbeard.

He used the ship for less than a year, but it was an effective tool in his prize-taking. In late , Intersal, [] a private firm working under a permit with the state of North Carolina, discovered the remains of the vessel. Thirty-one cannons have been identified to date and more than , artifacts have been recovered.

Authentic Narratives of the Most Celebrated Sea Robbers.

The discovery is recounted in Robert Kurson's book Pirate Hunters [] [] [] []. A privateer or corsair used similar methods to a pirate, but acted under orders of the state while in possession of a commission or letter of marque and reprisal from a government or monarch authorizing the capture of merchant ships belonging to an enemy nation. For example, the United States Constitution of specifically authorized Congress to issue letters of marque and reprisal. The letter of marque and reprisal was recognized by international convention and meant that a privateer could not technically be charged with piracy while attacking the targets named in his commission.

This nicety of law did not always save the individuals concerned, however, since whether one was considered a pirate or a legally operating privateer often depended on whose custody the individual found himself in—that of the country that had issued the commission, or that of the object of attack.

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Spanish authorities were known to execute foreign privateers with their letters of marque hung around their necks to emphasize Spain's rejection of such defenses. Furthermore, many privateers exceeded the bounds of their letters of marque by attacking nations with which their sovereign was at peace Thomas Tew and William Kidd are notable alleged examples , and thus made themselves liable to conviction for piracy.

However, a letter of marque did provide some cover for such pirates, as plunder seized from neutral or friendly shipping could be passed off later as taken from enemy merchants. The famous Barbary Corsairs of the Mediterranean, authorized by the Ottoman Empire, were privateers, as were the Maltese Corsairs, who were authorized by the Knights of St. John , and the Dunkirkers in the service of the Spanish Empire.

In the years — alone, the Dunkirk privateers captured 1, ships, and sank another His patron was Queen Elizabeth I, and their relationship ultimately proved to be quite profitable for England. Privateers constituted a large proportion of the total military force at sea during the 17th and 18th centuries. During the Nine Years War , the French adopted a policy of strongly encouraging privateers French corsairs , including the famous Jean Bart , to attack English and Dutch shipping.

England lost roughly 4, merchant ships during the war. During King George's War , approximately 36, Americans served aboard privateers at one time or another. Privateering lost international sanction under the Declaration of Paris in A wartime activity similar to piracy involves disguised warships called commerce raiders or merchant raiders , which attack enemy shipping commerce, approaching by stealth and then opening fire. Commerce raiders operated successfully during the American Revolution. Since commissioned naval vessels were openly used, these commerce raiders should not be considered even privateers, much less pirates—although the opposing combatants were vocal in denouncing them as such.

In the Gulf of Guinea, maritime piracy has also led to pressure on offshore oil and gas production, providing security for offshore installations and supply vessels is often paid for by oil companies rather than the respective governments. In , Brazil also created an anti-piracy unit on the Amazon River.


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River piracy happens in Europe, with vessels suffering from pirate attacks on the Serbian and Romanian stretches of the international Danube river , i. Modern pirates favor small boats and taking advantage of the small number of crew members on modern cargo vessels. Modern pirates can be successful because a large amount of international commerce occurs via shipping.

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Major shipping routes take cargo ships through narrow bodies of water such as the Gulf of Aden and the Strait of Malacca making them vulnerable to be overtaken and boarded by small motorboats. As usage increases, many of these ships have to lower cruising speeds to allow for navigation and traffic control, making them prime targets for piracy. Also, pirates often operate in regions of poor developing or struggling countries with small or nonexistent navies and large trade routes. Pirates sometimes evade capture by sailing into waters controlled by their pursuer's enemies.

With the end of the Cold War , navies have decreased in size and patrol less frequently, while trade has increased, making organized piracy far easier. Modern pirates are sometimes linked with organized-crime syndicates, but often are small individual groups. Their records indicate hostage-taking overwhelmingly dominates the types of violence against seafarers. For example, in , there were attacks, 77 crew members were kidnapped and taken hostage but only 15 of the pirate attacks resulted in murder.

There was a 35 percent increase on reported attacks involving guns.

Crew members that were injured numbered 64 compared to just 17 in The number of attacks from January to September had surpassed the previous year's total due to the increased pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden and off Somalia. Between January and September the number of attacks rose to from The pirates boarded the vessels in cases and hijacked 34 of them so far in Gun use in pirate attacks has gone up to cases from 76 last year.

Rather than cargo, modern pirates have targeted the personal belongings of the crew and the contents of the ship's safe, which potentially contains large amounts of cash needed for payroll and port fees.


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  • In other cases, the pirates force the crew off the ship and then sail it to a port to be repainted and given a new identity through false papers purchased from corrupt or complicit officials. Modern piracy can also take place in conditions of political unrest. For example, following the U. Further, following the disintegration of the government of Somalia, warlords in the region have attacked ships delivering UN food aid. The attack against the German-built cruise ship the Seabourn Spirit offshore of Somalia in November is an example of the sophisticated pirates mariners face.

    The attackers were armed with automatic firearms and an RPG. Backers were now reportedly reluctant to finance pirate expeditions due to the low rate of success, and pirates were no longer able to reimburse their creditors. Many nations forbid ships to enter their territorial waters or ports if the crew of the ships are armed, in an effort to restrict possible piracy.

    For the United States, piracy is one of the offenses against which Congress is delegated power to enact penal legislation by the Constitution of the United States , along with treason and offenses against the law of nations. Treason is generally making war against one's own countrymen, and violations of the law of nations can include unjust war among other nationals or by governments against their own people. In modern times, ships and airplanes are hijacked for political reasons as well.

    The perpetrators of these acts could be described as pirates for instance, the French term for plane hijacker is pirate de l'air , literally air pirate , but in English are usually termed hijackers. An example is the hijacking of the Italian civilian passenger ship Achille Lauro by the Palestinian Liberation Organization in , which is regarded as an act of piracy. A book entitled International Legal Dimension of Terrorism called the attackers "terrorists". Modern pirates also use a great deal of technology.