Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blackbeard's anchor?!

Look at the size of that thing!

The Queen Anne's Revenge Project, which has been been doing ongoing archaeological investigations of what very well may be Blackbeard's famous ship, has just pulled up a massive anchor.  Pauline's blog informed me of the news, and the news is all over the Net.  I still had to share.  There is a nice article from the local StarNews detailing the recovery.  Like all archaeology, this identification is to a certain degree hypothetical, but, nevertheless, the evidence that this is in fact the ship of the notorious Teach is accumulating.  And, by any measure, this is one Hell of an artifact.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Somalia update: Jay Bahadur, journalist

He wrote this book, which will be on my shelf when it comes out.

He wrote this article for the Guardian, which is absolutely fascinating.

He writes this blog, which appears to be THE blog on Somali pirates.

And he's Canadian, which always gains someone extra points.

Do not ignore this guy.

Rum Recipe of the Week: The Executioner's Reward

Another cocktail emerges from the notebook:

--shot of aged rum
--equal parts blood orange soda and (cheap) champagne
--top with lime zest

Aye, hangin' convicted pirates all day works up a mighty thirst, 'n' mebbe a bit o' existential angst.  This be how I drown me sorrows, as I watch the sun set from the gallows...

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Wicked Pirate City"--or, what's wrong with the National Geographic Channel

Fictionalized Cap'n Morgan and his fictionalized buccaneers

I was pretty jazzed when I found out that the National Geographic Channel had a new documentary coming on about the underwater ruins of Port Royal.  For those unfamiliar with this major piece of Caribbean and pirate history, here are the basics.  Port Royal was England's toehold in the Caribbean during the era of the "Spanish Main."  The English captured the town from the Spanish in 1655, and for the next few decades Port Royal was the center of both (illicit) English commerce and English-led buccaneering.  Legends like Henry Morgan not only sailed from Port Royal to attack Spanish ships and towns but also brought the booty back to spend on rum and women.  At its height, over 6,000 people called Port Royal "home."  The problem with pirate (or privateer?) paradise was that it was built on little more than a sand spit on the outside of Montego Bay.  In 1692, when a major earthquake struck Jamaica, the ground under Port Royal essentially liquefied, and within minutes two thirds of the town had slid into the ocean and most of the remainder was flooded by the ensuing tsunami.  Many of those that were not killed immediately were soon dead from injury or disease.  The English shifted their city to Kingston on the other side of the bay.  The buccaneer era passed as Royal support waned, and piracy shifted to the Bahamas.  The famous Cap'n Morgan had died four years before the earthquake, killed by edema, tuberculosis, and/or the rum.  His grave sank into the sea along with the town he had helped make famous.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A few words of wisdom

A pirate axiom I just coined from my work experience today:

If ye can't kill 'em with kindness...just kill 'em.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Somalia update: "Our Jeffersonian past?"

I really don't get my information from Fox News (Keith Olbermann used to call them "Fixed News"), but they showed up on Google with an article about a Republican Senator, Mark Kirk, who just returned from the Horn of Africa.  This, by the way, is this Mark Kirk who 'replaced' Barack Obama in Illinois when he became Prseident.  Senator Kirk thinks the U.S. Navy needs to get much tougher on the Somalis.  What struck me was this quote:  "We should recall our Jeffersonian past and blockade main pirate port locations."  "Jeffersonian past?"  It didn't compute at first, and then I recalled that era when piracy was a major problem for the very young United States.

Barbary Corsair Dragut Reis
The Barbary Corsairs were pirates in the sense that they were thieves at sea, but they were a very particular kind of brigand.  These raiders from the Barbary Coast, the area named by Europeans for the Berber inhabitants, had been bothering European ships and towns for centuries before Jefferson's time.  Tunis, Tripoli, and Algiers, the chief ports, were nominally part of the Ottoman Empire, because Moors exiled from Spain in 1492 were fair game until the Sultan offered them protection.  In fact these were pirate city-states whose chief source of income was plunder.  Their main booty was not gold or goods but slaves:  It has been said that perhaps a million or more Europeans were captured between 1530 and 1780.  There was both religious and monetary drive behind the Corsairs' activity.  For one, all Europeans were infidels, and capturing them was in their Muslim worldview a guaranteed ticket to paradise.  For another, there was profit in either selling the captives directly into slavery or getting paid a ransom for their freedom.  The captives could be slaves for years, working as manual laborers, domestic servants, or--worst of all--oarsmen aboard the dreaded Barbary galleys.  Some of the most successful Corsairs were not Moors at all but Englishmen and Europeans who had lost their privateering commissions between the many religious wars of the time and turned full pirate.  This is not, of course, unlike the buccaneers and pirates of the Caribbean, but here these turncoats were potentially enslaving their own countrymen.  Key among these scoundrels was Jack Ward, an Englishman who introduced square-rigged ships to the Barbary fleet and thus made the Corsairs the dominant maritime force in the Mediterranean in the 17th century.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rum recipe: Hernán's Day Off

Invented by Zanne, executed by me, and named for the bastard who made the Aztec empire crumble, opened up North America to white people, and gave buccaneers a whole new coast to plunder.  But even Hernán Cortés needed a break and a cocktail.
--white rum
--sprig of chocolate mint
--smaller sprig of Moroccan mint
--Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters
--ginger ale
--crushed ice
Muddle mint in crushed ice.  (Be sure to use both leaves and stem.)  Stir remaining ingredients.

Kalakala update: No news is good news?

The WWW has been very quiet lately about our favorite Art Deco ferry.  The only article lately was this one from the Tacoma News-Tribune on 5/4, discussing how the Kalakala's owner Steve Rodrigues talked to a very skeptical audience about moving the boat to Bellingham.  Yet there has been no formal proposal made public.  The official Kalakala website, typically, gets facelifts and new historical pictures and words without ever actually giving any NEWS.  I took the above picture (which is undated) directly from the Website, where it has the optimistic caption "Hope Floats."

So one can at least assume that the Kalakala remains above water and that the "disaster waiting to happen"...hasn't.  My care and curiosity, however, has finally driven me to try emailing the crew at kalakala.org directly.  I'll let you know what I find out...

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Thank you to my 500th visitor, who appears to be from the Czech Republic and Googled a picture of the HMS Surprise.


OK, it felt significant.

I just made this for Zanne, and I'll name it the Morning 500:
--Cruzan white rum
--blood orange bitters
--Domaine de Canton
--orange juice

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pirate Droid!

Don't get carried away imagining C-3PO wearing a tricorne.  The company ReconRobotics is now developing a little mechanical bilge monkey to fight--or at least spy on--them Somali pirates.  The technology's pretty cool.  For one, Pirate Droid (its real, current name is "Throwbot") weighs only about a pound and is about the size of a beer can.  It can survive being thrown 120 feet.  The wheels are magnetic and strong enough to go up the hull of a captured vessel and over the side.  Pirate Droid can then recon the vessel for pirates and hostages, equipped with an infrared camera for seeing in the dark.  Existing Throwbots are usually simply thrown by human power, but the company is talking about a "marsupial robot deployment system" (pirate koalas?!?) that would allow them to be launched from a cannon mounted on a larger robotic vehicle such as a "droid chopper" or unmanned boat.