10 Pirate Facts That Show Life on the High Seas Was No Movie Adventure
How many of us have dreamed of sailing to a mysterious island in hopes of finding a hidden treasure? Movies have shown us the thrill behind being a swashbuckling rogue living on a ship. But, although it seems that life on the high seas is full of adventure and adrenaline, real-life pirates were very different from what we’ve always imagined.
1. Wearing an eye patch could be a matter of life or death
While some pirates did wear an eye patch to hide the loss of an eye, most wore it to see better in the dark during a battle. On these occasions, a pirate would be fighting in the sunlight, and the next moment he would find himself below deck, where it was dark.
Since it takes the human eye 25 minutes on average to adapt to the change from light to dark, it was most strategic to prepare one eye to see in the dark by switching the patch from one eye to the other.
2. They believed earrings to have healing powers.
Sailors proudly wore earrings as a token of their voyages, but they also wore them for reasons that might seem a bit absurd today. For example, they believed that the precious metals in the earrings had healing properties capable of fixing bad eyesight, and that pierced ears prevented seasickness.
Moreover, they thought that a man wearing a gold earring could not drown, as this accessory was a kind of protective talisman.
3. They wore the same clothes for months.
At that time, clothing was very expensive, so most pirates wore one outfit until it rotted. They didn’t even take it off to sleep, for although some could afford to have pajamas, this was not practical because the crew had to always be ready to attend to any unforeseen events on the ship.
In addition, another reason for wearing dirty clothes was that being at sea it was impossible to wash them. Besides, they needed the captain’s permission to clean them, and they had to wait until the weather was warm enough for the clothes to dry quickly.
4. They used a wooden stick as a toothbrush.
When we think of a pirate, the image of a man chewing on a wooden stick with a thug expression may come to mind. The truth is that this was not done to look more intimidating, but as a way to keep their teeth clean.
Although wooden sticks were a common method of taking care of oral health, they did not always have one at hand. So there is no doubt why pirates have a reputation for having foul-smelling breath.
5. They were very superstitious.
Pirates had lots of superstitions. Movies may have shown sailors whistling in unison, but in real life, they avoided whistling on board as they believed it would cause bad weather. They also considered sharks to be an omen that a crew member would die and believed that dolphins swimming alongside the ship would bring good luck.
6. Blackbeard intimidated prisoners by setting his beard on fire.
The famous Blackbeard earned his nickname because of his thick beard, which gave him a fearsome appearance, and he relied on his image to get what he wanted. He was even said to intimidate prisoners by weaving hemp into his beard and setting it on fire.
7. Food was disgusting.
How can we forget Captain Barbossa and his juicy green apple? In the movies, it may have seemed that the pirates had a varied stock of food, but in reality, the food on board was limited to what would not perish over the course of extended voyages.
For example, bread would get stale and after a short time at sea, it would become infested with weevils. Beef dried out to such an extent that sailors used it to make buttons and belt buckles. Even the pirate Henry Morgan and his crew, stranded in 1670, had to eat shredded and fried leather bags.
8. They believed in Davy Jones’ locker.
That’s right, Davy Jones’ locker is not a cartoon invention. Real-life pirates were convinced of the existence of this place where the souls of drowned sailors lived together with the evil spirit. For pirates, saying “you will be sent to Davy Jones’ locker” was a euphemism for death at sea.
According to the belief, Davy Jones took different forms and could be seen just before the onset of a storm or other disaster to guide sailors to their watery graves.
9. The earrings protected them from the noise of the cannons.
While these sea adventurers may have been wrong about many of the benefits of wearing earrings, there is one thing they were right about. Earrings protected them against hearing loss. The pirates who fired the cannons of ships dangled wads of wax on their earrings to use as earplugs.
10. They used a hole in the ship as a bathroom.
Going to the bathroom in the middle of the sea was not an easy task. Sailors used latrines located on the sides of the bow, that is, the front of the ship. So we can only imagine the challenge of not falling overboard. Only the captain had a private toilet near his cabin.
Another option was to relieve themselves in a bucket and then dump the contents overboard.
Who is your favorite pirate? If you could travel on a ship, what kind of adventure would make you exclaim “Yo Ho” in excitement?