Popular Pirate Lore
The subject of many a tall tale, pirates, privateers, or buccaneers, gained in folklore with their expertise in capturing vessels off the main shipping lanes as well as the Caribbean as early as the sixteenth century. Whether they plundered, stole, killed, or executed missions on orders, most came to an ignominious end.
Sir Francis Drake (English, 1540). One of the earliest and most celebrated privateer of his time, Captain Drake sacked the Spanish army many times with the blessing of Queen Elizabeth I. Spain was repeatedly sacked and plundered at Spanish cities off the coast of Florida. Before his death of dysentery, he become the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe and he rescued the unsuccessful English colonists of Roanoke Island off the coast of the Carolinas.
Captain William Kidd, a Scotsman (1645), began his career some said as a privateer originally commissioned to rid the seas of pirates. He was reluctantly elected captain by his crew. After learning that he was being hunted, he buried some of his treasure on Gardiners Island, but he was eventually captured, sent to England for trial and sentenced to death.
Edward Teach “Blackbeard” (English, 1680). Blackbeard is one of the best-known and probably most widely-feared of his time. At the height of his career he commanded four ships and had a pirate army of 300. He captured over forty merchant ships in the Caribbean and killed many a prisoner. He was eventually overtaken by the Royal Navy and beheaded.
Bartholomew Roberts “Black Bart” (Welsh, 1682). Roberts’ was purportedly forced into piracy, having once been an officer on board a ship that was captured by the pirate Howell Davis (apparently not an unusual story). He plundered over 400 ships and captained well-armored ships succumbing finally in a vigorous battle against British Captain Chaloner Ogle.
The buccaneer Englishman Captain Edward Davis (known as a “gentleman” pirate-1680) was the subject of my grandfather’s book regarding Cocos Island. Cpt. Edward Davis’s exploits were recorded by writer William Dampier. According to sources, Davis with his flagship, the Bachelor’s Delight anchored in “Chatham Bay and supposedly left behind several chests containing ingots, pieces-of-eight and £300,000 in silver bar and plate taken from settlements in Peru and Chile.” They also go on to say that he may have been the same privateer to accompany Captain William Kidd to America after a meeting at St. Mary’s Island in 1697.
It is said that Jacque Cousteau called the five mile long Cocos Island one of the most beautiful islands, also known as the wettest, in the world. The island has long been declared to be hiding more than just natural beauty within its rugged landscape.
The island has been closed off to treasure hunters by Costa Rica, who owns the island, due to it’s unique marine and land ecosystem. Definitely the stories handed down from generation to generation and writers such as Dampier and my grandfather lend themselves to the folklore of the romantized pirate legends. An undated carving on another tree might suggest some of the pirates may have managed to retrieve their hidden booty. It reads simply: “The bird has flown.”