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SDMMSU_070724_016.JPG: Piracy and Privateering
From the beginnings of the age of sail, seafaring nations sought to amplify their naval power by encouraging their own private citizens to wage maritime war on national enemies. The incentive was profit. Until 1856, when the practice was abolished by international convention, all maritime states issued "Letters of Marque and Reprisal," authorizing their private mariners to capture for possession and sale any enemy ships they encountered on the high seas. Though an inexpensive way of waging economic war, there was a disadvantage to the strategy. Having encouraged the occupation of privateering, sea powers found it difficult to control the legions of seafaring predators thrown out of a lawful traded when peace treaties were signed. Many privateers simply turned to piracy, seeking targets of opportunity flying any flag. Some pirates who cruised the Pacific, including William Dampier, spent part of their predatory careers as "lawful" privateers, and part of it unsure of their own legal status.
European piracy in every sea came to an end with the absolute ascendancy of the great naval powers and the international abolishment of privateering.
Gold! Silver! Jewels! But did you know that the single most valuable piece of plunder was, in fact, the vessel itself? Captured ships quickly became part of the pirate fleet or could be sold for a handsome sum. Only rarely did jewels, gold, or special cargo such as black pepper or other spices surpass the value of the ship. Cargo commonly carried eastbound on the Manila Galleons included silks, porcelain, gold, ivory, gemstones, jade, and mercury. Westbound cargo was most often silver along with manufactured goods from Europe, items for which there was a high demand in China.
So, piracy in the Pacific Ocean, or anywhere in the world for that matter, was always about "precious" cargoes, right? Well, you might be surprised at history's take on some other valuable pirate booty, right here off the coast of California. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, San Franciscans had insatiable appetites for eggs from the small seabird known as the murre (Uria aalge). A group of industrious entrepreneurs decided to meet this need and formed the Pacific Egg Company, sending vessels and workers 28 miles westward to the Farallon Islands to harvest murre eggs. These were then sold to bakeries and restaurants that lauded the nutritional treats as "rich, delicate, and altogether desirable... fried... boiled... in any of the hundred ways known." As with any commercially valuable cargo, pirates intercepted and absconded with the goods... in this case, eggs!
SDMMSU_070724_028.JPG: Pieces of Eight:
Speak of pirates and what comes to mind? Peg legs? Parrots? Pieces of Eight? Although the first two are readily identifiable, the latter produces a bit of confusion. What were these mysterious little pieces of pirate lore? Quite simply, pieces of eight were silver coins manufactured in the Americas and carried in ships back to Spain.
Spanish silver coins were known as pesos (literally, "weights") and were valued at eight reales ("royals"). These were often cut into eight "bits" in order to make change, thus the origin of the term "pieces of eight" for the coin itself. One quarter and "two bits" (slang for twenty-five cents) come from the sectioning of these coins into fourths.
Coinage is interesting for many reasons, not the least of which is the role it plays in the material culture of society. Modern coins -- such as those in your pocket or purse -- are usually made from base metals and have values that are predetermined by government fiat, or "decree". In other words, the government, not the individual, decides what money is worth. Because the change you are carrying has little intrinsic value (remembers, it's made from a low quantity of "base" metal), it usually is more of a "token" than a true coin.
Pieces of eight, however, were true coins, at least as monetary scholars would describe them. They were made of a valuable, even precious, material; they were fabricated according to a standardized weight and purity; and they were marked to identify the authority that guaranteed their content.
So what did the stuff of pirate dreams look like? One side, the obverse, bore the Spanish coat of arms. On the other side (reverse) appeared the Jerusalem Cross, or the Pillars of Hercules, depending on the date of production. The latter, in the form of two columns, represented the Strait of Gibraltar. These towering symbols, along with the words Et Plus Ultra ("and even beyond"), heralded the pride and hubris of the Spanish Empire as it extended outside the confines of the Mediterranean world.
Because Spanish vessels -- whether they journeyed from Manila to Mexico or from the New World back to Europe -- carried such precious treasures and sailed on regularized schedules and predictable routes, they were easy targets for pirates and privateers.
SDMMSU_070724_033.JPG: There are no cannons aboard a ship!
Cannon are used on land, "guns" are used on ships!
Cannon are like underwear! Why? Because the singular is also the plural! Say "cannon," not "cannons".
(You have three pairs of underwear in your drawer ... not three pairs of underwears!)
SDMMSU_070724_035.JPG: (Cannon cutaway):
This cutaway model demonstrates how cannon are fired. The gunlock mechanism uses a flint to produce a spark that ignites priming powder in the flashpan and vent. This in turn ignites the main charge -- three pounds of power for a nine pound gun. The explosion forces the shot out of the barrel and towards the target. Wadding secures the shot in place and increases the force of the discharge. It contains the expanding gas of the black powder charge, and directs most of the energy generated into propelling the shot forward.
SDMMSU_070724_045.JPG: What Were Pirate Ships Like?
One of the most celebrated texts in the annals of piracy is "A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates," published in 1724 by Captain Charles Johnson (whose true identify is thought by many to be none other than Daniel Defoe). In it, a variety of ship types are mentioned.
When we think of pirate ships, the quintessential vessel that comes to mind is the galleon, that three-masted "workhouse" of the Spanish Empire that transported precious bullion and spices across both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Because it was large and capacious, and, therefore, carried vast amounts of booty, the galleon was a prime target for robbery on the high seas. But read Johnson's tome -- or any book on pirates for that matter -- and it is evident that the preferred vessel for carrying out piracy was the sloop, a small sailing craft, usually with a single mast set aft of the bow about one third the length of the vessel.
Why the sloop? Because it was small and easily maneuverable; because it presented a minimal profile against the horizon, which provided a modicum of stealth; and because it could easily approach and sail under the fantail (sterncastle) of its intended target, the prime area for boarding the ship.
SDMMSU_070724_048.JPG: Chinese Junks:
Junks were Chinese transoceanic sailing vessels that originated during the Han Dynasty (220 BCE-200 CE). They evolved into one of the most successful watercraft in history, due mainly to numerous technical advances both in sail plan and hull design.
Sails were cut elliptically and slightly curved; they were spread between multiple masts and were easily reefed, thereby accommodating a variety of wind speeds and directions and they incorporated bamboo inserts (battens) that gave the sail the shape of an airfoil and thus permitted them to sail well on any point. Furthermore, junks had simple rigging with few ropes.
Most often the hull was built from softwoods, although teak was sometimes used. The largest junks were those use for exploration in the 1400s; they reached lengths of 120 meters (394 feet).
The name "junk" in English comes from the Malay dgong or jong.
... The Dyak are one of the many groups of indigenous people inhabiting the island of Borneo. They are generally divided into the Sea Dyaks, or Iban, who inhabit the coastal areas and rivers; the Land Dyaks of SW Borneo; the Bahau of central and East Borneo; and the Ngadju of South Borneo. Dyak strongholds were rampant during the 19th century.
And Dyak pirates are quite the stuff of literature! In Patrick O'Brian's "The Nutmeg of Consolation," the fourteenth novel in the Aubrey-Maturin series, the story opens with Captain Jack Aubry and his crew shipwrecked in the South China Sea. While stranded, they fight a ferocious battle against Dyak pirates. Eventually, they are rescued by a Chinese trader. Dyak Pirates also appear in Edgar Rice Burroughs' "The Monster Men".
SDMMSU_070724_064.JPG: Shipboard Social Geography:
The design and arrangement of sailing ships reinforced the social structure of life at sea. In the sailing ships of every nation, whether merchantman or naval vessel, seamen resided forward or on the gun decks, officers in the after part of the ship, and the captain lived in solitary splendor in his great cabin. The floating societies of pirate ships were the most democratic and egalitarian of all Europe's early modern social institutions, where status and authority derived from a leader's personal qualities and the conditional consent of colleagues. Even so, everyone knew that the occupant of the great cabin was the one in charge.
SDMMSU_070724_067.JPG: Costumes from the "Master and Commander" movie
SDMMSU_070724_071.JPG: The Ship:
The ship you are now on, which portrayed the "HMS Surprise in the film "Master and Commander," began life in the 1970s as a replica of the 24-gun frigate Rose of 1757. Also known as a sixth-rate ship of war, a frigate is the smallest class of ship commanded by a full captain (smaller versions were known as sloop-of-war). Frigates were characterized by possessing a single deck of guns, as opposed to the multiple gun decks of larger ships-of-the-line (which usually operated in fleets). Faster and more economical than the latter, frigates were used to patrol, scout, repeat signals during battles between heavy ships, carry dispatches, convoy merchantmen, raid enemy merchantmen and convoys, and conduct independent operations in distant waters. They did not engage ships-of-the-line in battle. Frigates varied in size and power, general expressed by the number of guns they carried and the weight of shot fired.
The original Rose came to America in 1768. During 1774, as sentiments in the colonies began to turn against England, HMS Rose contributed to the ill will by aggressive enforcement of customs regulations and seizures of contraband ships and cargoes owned by Rhode Island merchants, causing the collapse of Newport's economy. After the outbreak of hostilities, Rose bombarded forts surrounding New York, helping to drive Washington's troops from the city. Rose was scuttled in the Savannah River in 1779 to block its use by the French, and her wreck destroyed to clear the channel after the war.
Built in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, the replica Rose operated as a sail training vessel from 1985 to 2001. Thousands of people from all over the world experienced adventure at sea aboard the Rose as she ranged from her homeport in New England as far north as Labrador and as far south as Grenada, into the Great Lakes as far west as Duluth and east to the Atlantic coast of Europe.
In 2003, the ship was transformed into the HMS Surprise for the 20th Century Fox film "Master and Commander Far Side of the World" starring Russell Crowe and directed by Peter Weir. Surprise is a 28-gun, 12-pound frigate. The fictitious Surprise of the Patrick O'Brian books was a French-built ship captured by the British years earlier. She would have been slightly larger, more powerful, and more modern than the film version. Though two frigates named Surprise actually served in the Royal navy during this period, neither closely corresponds to the fictional ship.
Today, the ship continues her life as Surprise for the Maritime Museum of San Diego; serving as an attraction vessel, a platform for dramatic exhibits, and always a sailing ship with plans to once again run before the wind.
SDMMSU_070724_077.JPG: Jolly Roger!
Flags are important symbols that communicate ideas through easily recognizable shapes and colors. In the case of pirates, these cloth messengers were effectively deployed to terrify those on whom the sea venturers preyed. A pirate's flag, it has oft been said, "would be as good as fifty men."
Hoisting a red flag, or "Red Jack", sent the message that an attack was imminent and that the intended victims could expect "no quarter given," if they did not surrender. In other words, choosing to fight meant that the end was near and no prisoners would be taken; everyone would die.
The black flag, or "Jolly Roger" as it has come to be known, is more familiar to most of us and was raised to indicate malicious intent and to intimidate the crew of the vessel intended for capture. It was a gentle reminder that offering (or appearing to offer) resistance was foolish, indeed.
Some pirates "personalized" their flags with a variety of symbols, including their initials, skulls and crossed bones (death), cutlasses and spears (violence), and an hourglass, a clever visual device indicating that "your time is up."
So how did the red and black flags come to be? Of course this, like much of pirate lore, is shrouded in speculation. As the early pirates of the Caribbean tended to be from France, it is believed by some that the name "Jolly Roger" comes from joli rouge, or literally, the "pretty red." Still others credit English pirates in the Indian Ocean with giving the nickname "Ally Roger" or "Olly Roger" and eventually, "Jolly Roger," to a Tamil pirate known as Ali Raja who was known to fly the red flag.
SDMMSU_070724_081.JPG: What was the economic impact of piracy?
Pirates were both familiar with the workings of an international market economy and little affected by the uncertainties of economic change. They created an imperial crisis with their relentless and successful attacks on merchants' property and international commerce. Plungers were also exceptional both in volume and value. Pirates often intercepted large trading vessels, such as the Manila Galleons, which devastated Chinese and Spanish traders, due to the incredible amount of riches lost. Pirates could either keep those popular trade items or could sell them for copious amounts of money.
William Dampier's crew often south large trading vessels because they brought the most spoils. Money became a huge factor when food, supplies, and morale got low.
SDMMSU_070724_084.JPG: Are Pirates Still Around?
Talk of pirates today and most folks think of intellectual property rights or downloading music illegally. But in fact, these "enemies of the human race" are rampant, especially in the more unstable regions of the world. Of particular threat in shipping in the twenty-first century are the pirates of the Indonesian and African coasts. And believe it or not, there are still places in the Bahamian Islands where it is unsafe to travel alone in a small boat! Fishermen and yachtsmen beware: pirates are still around!
And their tactics haven't changed all that much from those swashbuckling cut throats that plagued Europe and the Americas in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Pirates today still rely on small, fast, maneuverable craft such as "cigarette boats" (or even inflatable dingies) that can easily be positioned beneath the fantail (stern) of ocean-going cargo transports. Boarding an intended target is as simple as tossing a grapnel with a rope attached. Within minutes, a handful [of] men brandishing "small arms," usually semi- or fully-automatic weapons, can easily commandeer a 600-foot long oil tanker!
To counter such measures, shipping companies have employed a number of "anti-piracy" tactics, including sonic blasters, high-powered rotating water cannon that sweet the fantail of the ship, and even plywood cutouts of guards hoisting AK-47s that are posted at their "stations" at the stern of the ship.
SDMMSU_070724_094.JPG: Where did Robert Louis Stevenson come up with the ideas for "Treasure Island"?
Thanks to Robert Louis Stevenson's numerous letters and essays, we know a great deal about his literary inspirations. The catalyst for Stevenson's "Treasure Island," the most famous of all pirate stories, was a treasure map, but his other sources were numerous and varied.
Stevenson drew from memories of works by Daniel Defoe, Edgar Allan Poe, and Washington Irving, and claimed that the novel "At Last" by Charles Kingsley was a key inspiration. Stevenson's father came up with the contents of Billy Bone's sea-chest and suggested the scene where Jim Hawkins hides in the apple barrel, and his stepson Lloyd Osbourne insisted there be no women in the story.
Writer and editor William Henley modeled the character of Long John Silver. Lloyd Osbourne described Henley as "... a great, glowing, massive-shouldered fellow with a big red beard and a crutch; jovial, astoundingly clever, and with a laugh that rolled like music he had an unimaginable fire and vitality he swept one off one's feet." In a letter to Henley after the publication of "Treasure Island," Stevenson wrote, "I will now make a confession. It was the sign of your maimed strength and masterfulness that begot Long John Silver... the idea of the maimed man, ruling and dreaded by the sound [speech], was entirely taken from you."
SDMMSU_070724_096.JPG: Daniel Defoe and "Robinson Crusoe":
Daniel Defoe was born Daniel Foe, the son of a tallow chandler in London, probably around 1660, although his birth year is uncertain. His parents were "dissenters" -- Protestants not belonging to the Anglican Church -- and it was intended that Daniel would enter the Presbyterian ministry. But Defoe chose instead of become a businessman who, throughout his career, dealt in wine, tobacco, hosiery, and tiles, among other things. Unfortunately, his life was always plagued by debt.
In 1684, Defoe married Mary Tuffley, a woman whom he seldom mentioned in his writings. Together, they had eight children and remained married for 47 years until his death in 1731. His adult life was spent deeply involved in political schemes, and Defoe became a successful pamphleteer, such so that his activities led to exile, eventual arrest, and placement in the pillories.
Defoe's definitive works include "Captain Singleton" (1720), "Moll Flanders" (1722), "A Journal of the Plague Year" (1722), "Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress" (1724), and "The Political History of the Devil" (1726). One of the most familiar stories in the English language is that of the castaway Robinson Crusoe. It is widely agreed that Defoe modeled his protagonist after Alexander Selkirk, although the two are never known to have met. Interestingly, Defoe's famous narrative appeared in 1719, when he was nearly 60 years old, one year after Captain Woodes Rogers' second edition of his famous rescue of Selkirk was published.
Defoe produced one thousand copies of "Robinson Crusoe." So successful were the sales that within two weeks a second edition was printed. Within the year, the volume had been translated into three languages. Sequels on the life of Crusoe were to follow, including "The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe" and "Serious Reflections During the Life and Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe." These, however, could not match the success of the original story.
SDMMSU_070724_101.JPG: Alexander Selkirk:
Alexander Selkirk was born Alexander Seleraig in 1676, the son of a Scottish shoemaker in Lower Largo, Fife, Scotland. Although he possessed a sharp intellect, he also had a remarkable temper that often got the best of him. On 27 August 1695, Alexander was reprimanded for "undecent carriage" in church and, rather than appear before the council, ran away to sea.
In September 1703, Selkirk joined with William Dampier's expedition to the South Seas (Pacific Ocean), becoming the sailing master about the Cinque Ports, under the command of Captain Thomas Stradling. While refitting the careening in the Juan Fernandez Islands off the coast of Chile, Selkirk protested to Stradling that the vessel was not fit to sail and asked to be left behind rather than to risk perishing at sea. Stradling gladly accommodated his request. In early October 1704, Alexander Selkirk regretfully watched as the Cinque Ports sailed away, although his intuition served him well, for the vessel later sank.
Alexander Selkirk remained in isolation until the privateer ship Duke, under the command of Captain Woodes Rogers and with William Dampier as pilot, dropped anchor at Juan Fernandez Island early in February 1708. Dampier, who immediately recognized Selkirk as his marooned shipmate, convinced the captain that he was a good man and that he should be brought aboard. Rogers consented, and in 1712 published an account of the story in his volume "A Cruising Voyage Round the World: First to the South Seas, Thence to the East Indies, and Homeward by the Cape of Good Hope... Containing a Journal of All the Remarkable Transactions... An Account of Alexander Selkirk's Living Alone Four Years and Four Months on an Island." So ended Alexander Selkirk's four years of self-imposed isolation, a story that would later be known around the world through Daniel Defoe's semi-fictional work, "Robinson Crusoe," published in 1719.
Selkirk reached London on 14 October 1711, three-and-a-half years after leaving Juan Fernandez, and having spent more than 8 years away from home. He returned to Fife and married sixteen-year old Sophia Bruce, but went to sea within a year. He would marry again, the second time to a widowed innkeeper in Plymouth.
What we know of Selkirk's death comes from the log of the Royal Ship Weymouth, which tells us that Alexander Selkirk, lieutenant, died at eight o'clock in the evening on 13 December 1721, and was buried at sea somewhere off the coast of western Africa.
SDMMSU_070724_102.JPG: Woodes Rogers
Woodes Rogers was an English privateer, although the Spanish considered him a "pirate". Between the years 1708 and 1711, he -- along with William Dampier as navigator -- circumnavigated the world, harassing Spanish shipping.
So successful was this voyage that Rogers wrote of it in his 1712 volume titled "A Cruising Voyage Round the World: First to the South Seas, Thence to the East Indies, and Homeward by the Cape of Good Hope... Containing a Journal of All the Remarkable Transactions... An Account of Alexander Selkirk's Living Alone Four Years and Four Months on an Island." The book, which chronicled the rescue of Alexander Selkirk, became the inspirational source for Daniel Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe".
The irony in Rogers' life was that he became Governor of the Bahamas in 1718. Muck like the infamous buccaneer Henry Morgan -- who became governor of Jamaica -- he was commissioned to break up the pirate nests in and around the Bahamian archipelago.
SDMMSU_070724_106.JPG: Model for Model of Trafalgar
SDMMSU_070724_108.JPG: Wind and Wave -- Between the Rocks and a Hard Place:
Tactics and circumstances were only some of the issues that had impact on the "picture of the battle." The battle cannot be fully comprehended without understanding the weather and surrounding geography, neither of which were able to property represent here.
The British approached from the west, with a light breeze coming from the northwest to west-northwest. The Victory only logged one knot (one nautical mile per hour) in the final hours of the approach. The French/Spanish fleet had the wind just forward of the beam, probably the worst point of sale they could have chosen, and most likely were making less than a quarter knot. However, they really didn't have a choice. They were only twelve miles west and windward of Cape Trafalgar. Steering any further to the right would have been dangerous. Although the wind was light, a storm was on the way and everyone knew it.
To make matters worse, there was a moderate swell coming from the west, presumably generated from the coming storm. With the light winds, this had minor impact on the British ships but the French/Spanish ships rolled heavily. It played havoc with their long range gunnery and caused problems with their ability to keep station on the other ships.
SDMMSU_070724_120.JPG: Pirates tended to be from the lowest social class and had few familial ties. A pirate's life, though tough, was far less onerous than service on a merchant or naval ship. Most who adopted a pirate's life had previous experience on the sea, either as sailors aboard a merchant vessel, service in the navy, or as privateers (government-sanctioned pirates). The profession was not one filled with "landlubbers," since sea robbers "entertain'd so contemptible a Notion of Landmen." Those who chose -- or in some instances were coerced into -- the pirate lifestyle quickly became familiar with the rigors of a life at sea, the hardships of isolation, and a single-sex work community.
SDMMSU_070724_122.JPG: The word "piracy" is derived from piera deceptio, which connotes deceit or deception. It also has roots in the word "peiron" to wander up and down, to rest in no place, and to travel about with indent to do mischief.
These "enemies of the human race" are then, by definition, those who act solely on their own authority, without commission or authorization from the sovereign state, who seize by force and appropriate to themselves, without discrimination, every vessel they encounter.
-- Adapted from Davison v. Seal-Skins, C.C.Conn 1835, 7 F. Cas. 192, No. 3661, Criminal Law 45.50
SDMMSU_070724_124.JPG: Welcome aboard the Surprise, the replica British frigate featured in the film "Master and Commander". Now, leave it behind and enter in your imagination the pirate vessel Somerset, a full-rigged ship named for the birthplace of famed pirate and scientist William Dampier. As you travel about, pay close attention to the many exploits of this most remarkable fellow, whose accomplishments include three voyages around the world, numerous discoveries, three books, and associations with some of history's most interesting and infamous scoundrels.
SDMMSU_070724_129.JPG: So Many Rogues!
Buccaneers, Privateers, and Corsairs
Shortly after Christopher Columbus's first voyage of discovery to the New World, Spain turned its attention to settlement. By the first quarter of the sixteenth century, Spanish farms and ranches dotted the countryside of Hispaniola, the Greater Antillean island that today comprises Haiti (to the west) and the Dominican Republic (to the east). Attempts to colonize the New World were successful, and the center for Spanish Empire in the Americas was firmly rooted in Santo Domino, on the island's southern coast.
With the discovery of gold an silver in South America and Mexico, many of Hispaniola's agrarian settlers headed for the mainland to make their fortunes, leaving crops and livestock behind to fend for themselves. Within a short time, these unattended animals wandered into the hillocks and savannas of the island's interior, where they quickly became feral populations. In fact, during the first half of the seventeenth century, wild pigs and cattle outnumbered the human population on Hispaniola.
The seventeenth century was aptly known as the "Leather Age." Because of its properties of strength, flexibility, and durability, leather was a much desired component for anything involved in transportation, including sailing ships, saddlery, and carriages. The high demand created a tremendous market for cattle hides and pigskins, and the early seventeenth century witnessed the emergence of a specialized hunter, one who roamed the savannas of Hispaniola in search of these "wild" animals. The men who hunted these formerly domesticated livestock were mostly marooners, shipwreck survivors, and escaped slaves. They tended to travel in loosely-organized groups of six to eight and roamed the savannas for months at a time, subsisting on meat seasoned with lemon and water. The hides they obtained from the animals they killed were dried in "boucans" (a Taino word, from the natives that inhabited Hispaniola when the Europeans arrived), small huts built from green sticks gathered on the plains. It was from these "smoke houses" or "boucans" that these men became known as "boucaniers," or, as we refer to them in English, "buccaneers".
The hides, once cured, would be sold or traded for goods delivered by European merchant ships that put into clandestine ports along the island's northern coast. This upset the Spanish government in Santo Domingo because they could not tax this illicit commerce. So, when numerous attempts to disband the buccaneers failed miserably, the government decided to undermine the financial prospects of these "wild and savage" men who roamed Hispaniola's northern plains. Spanish soldiers systematically slaughtered all of the feral pigs and cattle on the island. Almost overnight, the boucanier became men without an enterprise.
These highly specialized hunters were now out of work. And who was responsible for their unemployment? The Spanish government! In retaliation for their plight, the boucaniers set out to destroy the economic prospects of Spain. The Spanish Empire in the New World relied heavily on shipments of supplies from Europe. In return, they sent natural resources (gold, silver, and precious stones, among other things) back to Spain in heavily laden ships. Their predictable shipment schedules allowed the recently "displaced" boucanier to earn a new and reasonable living while simultaneously inflicting substantial economic damage on the Spaniards. By plundering Spanish wealth on the high seas, the infamous pirates of the Caribbean were born!
Like pirates, privateers engaged in robbery, pillaging, and plundering at sea. They,however, were authorized to do so by an official decree from the government, and carried what is known as a "letter of marque," a document that said as much.
Corsairs -- from the Italian corso ("chase"), thus literally "one who gives chase" -- also operated with a commission from a government. The term, however, has come to be associated with privateers who sailed in the Mediterranean Sea off the Northern coast of Africa, out of Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers, Sale, and ports in Morocco. These were the infamous Barbary Pirates, or Barbary Corsairs.
SDMMSU_070724_130.JPG: Ships of the Fleets:
This diorama includes all the ships of the line for both fleets (twenty-seven British, thirty-three French/Spanish) as well as three non-ships of the line.
The Spanish first rate Santisima Trinidad (130 guns) was the largest ship in either fleet. The Spanish also had a couple of 112 gun ships. Nelson's Flagship Victory was rated at 100 guns, while Villeneuve's Bucentaire was only 80 guns. Most ships in both fleets were third rate 74 gun ships. Both fleets also included third rate 64 gun ships (one Spanish, three British) including HMS Africa.
Modelers also included three non-ships of the line for perspective. The frigates and smaller ships served as scouts, stood by and relayed signals during the battle, and carried out various duties after the battle. Just to the east of the British line is the 36 gun frigate HMS Euryalis and 10 gun schooner HMS Pickle. After the battle and the death of Vice Admiral Nelson, Vice Admiral Collingwood assumed command of the British fleet and transferred his flag to the Euryalis. The other ships were too badly damaged. The fast schooner Pickle (similar to the Museum's ship, Californian) carried the news of the battle and Nelson's death back to England. Other smaller ships towed the ships that had been dismasted in battle.
Also represented is 24 fun replica frigate Surprise, the ship on which you are now standing. This allowed you to see how the ship are currently on "sizes up" to other ships that participated in the battle. Frigates were the cruisers of the 18th and 19th century. Ranging from 24 to 44 guns, frigates operated as scouts for the fleet or independently as commerce raiders. Dashing frigate captains were viewed with the same romantic aura as hotshot fighter pilots today.
SDMMSU_070724_136.JPG: The Battle of Trafalgar:
It is now 12:45, 21 October 1805, twelve miles off the coast of Cape Trafalgar... and you are there.
At about 12:45pm on 21 October 1805, HMS Victory (100), flagship of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, broke through the line of the combined French and Spanish fleet. By choice or by chance, Nelson cut the line right behind Bucentaure (80), the flagship of the combined fleet commander, Vice Admiral Pierre Villeneuve. Forty-five minutes earlier, HMS Royal Sovereign (100) fired the first British shots of the battle and subsequently cut the line, engaging the Spanish ship Santa Ana (112).
This was the culmination of six months of cat and mouse maneuvering stretching from Toulon, France in the Mediterranean to the West Indies and back to Cadiz, Spain. Admiral Villeneuve had been ordered by Emperor Napoleon to bring his combined fleet to Brest, France, where he would break the British imposed blockage and combine forces with the French fleet there. They would then sail up the English Channel, take the British Channel Fleet by surprise, and establish maritime control of the channel. The French invasion of the British Isles could then begin. Nelson's job was to prevent this. He could accomplish this by keeping the fleet blockaded in Cadiz, or he could lure them out and defeat them. He chose the second course of action.
The combined French/Spanish fleet was all underway from Cadiz by dawn on 20 October. British frigates had already reported the fleet's departure, so it was no surprise. Nelson moved his fleet to intercept and engage. By 4:00pm, the wind shifted from the South-South-Westerly direction to the West (wind coming from the west). Villeneuve headed south towards the Straits of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean. Once it was obvious his departure was not a secret, apparently Villeneuve decided fighting Nelson and trying to weather Cape St. Vincent to the north before engaging the blockading fleet off Brest was more than he wanted to tackle. He was headed to the Mediterranean and the French base at Toulon.
The British sighted the Combined Fleet at just before 6:00am on the 21st with the dawn. It would be a half hour or so before the Combined Fleet saw the British. By 6:20am, both fleets had been ordered to "form a line of battle." They were no more than ten miles apart. The approach was slow due to the light winds. The British fleet was formed up in two lines, approaching the Combined Fleet at almost a right angle. Nelson's squadron was formed up almost directly astern while the squadron under Vice American Cuthburt Collingwood (Royal Sovereign 100) was in more of an echelon. Whether this was due to a misread flag signal or the anticipation to get at the enemy, or both, is not certain.
The Combined Fleet was in much more disarray. The departure from Cadiz the day before was not very orderly. They were not able to get in desired formation when they turned south just before sunset. It got no better during the night when most captains were more interested in avoiding collisions than keeping formation. The light winds and moderate swell from the west did not help matters. By about 8:00am, it was clear to Villeneuve that if he continued his present course, the van (front) of his fleet could clear Cape Trafalgar and make a clear run into the Med, but his center and rear would be caught by the British fleet. He decided to turn and head back to the north so his whole fleet could be engaged. This slow turn in a beaming sea only added to the turmoil.
Nelson used unconventional and, at the time, controversial tactics. By coming straight on to the Combined Fleet, the leading flagships were subject to enemy fire of four or five ships for a half mile (in this case, a half hour). Ideally, the Combined Fleet could pummel the lead sips until dismasted then shift to the next in line, reducing the British fleet to rubble. Nelson understood, however, that the French and Spanish gunners were not well trained, they normally fired hire, and they did not have a good rate of fire. There was also a moderate swell from the west, causing the ships to roll in the light breeze and throwing what gunnery skills they did have into a cocked hat. If he could cut off a portion of the enemy fleet and bring his ships alongside the enemy, he was sure he would prevail.
By 4:15pm, the battle was over. The British had captured nineteen ships; one French ship, Achilles (74), was afire and would explode in a few hours. It was a resounding British victory. However, Nelson was mortally wounded below deck and would live for only fifteen more minutes.
The battle won, maintaining the beaten fleet proved difficult for the British. By dusk, the winds started to pick up and by midnight the battered ships had to contend with a heavy gale, which lasted off and on for three days. Dismasted ships could not be controlled. Ships under tow sometimes had their towlines part or were cast off because the towing ship was in jeopardy. During this whole period, they had [to] fight to keep from going aground in the shoal waters around Cape Trafalgar. While no British ships were lost, many French and Spanish were. Of the nineteen ships captured, only four managed to get to Gibraltar. Of the others, some sank, some were recaptured and run aground, and several others escaped after being recaptured.
Despite the tarnish, the victory had significant impact. Napoleon's navy was in shambles and never again ventured out to challenge the British. The threat of invasion was gone and Napoleon had to continue only as a land force. The Napoleonic wars would last another ten years. Britain's supremacy of the sea, however, would remain unchallenged for the next century and more. The next major naval battle would not occur until Jutland in 1916, and Britannia's rule of the waves would continue until the 1940s.
SDMMSU_070724_147.JPG: The Battle of Trafalgar and the End of Piracy Under Sail:
The high seas of William Dampier's day, especially in the vast reaches of the pacific, were lawless and dangerous places far beyond the reach of national naval power. But this was soon to change. In 1805, the culminating naval battle of the age of sail not only established British naval supremacy for more than century, it also signaled the ascendancy of modern nations in their control of the high seas, including the ability to eradicate piracy as a meaningful impediment to maritime trade.
Ironically, two hundred years later, no equivalent level of control exists on the high seas today.
SDMMSU_070724_162.JPG: Set for discussion of Robinson Crusoe
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Wikipedia Description: HMS Surprise (ship)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
HMS Surprise is a modern tall ship, built at Lunenberg, Nova Scotia as Rose in 1970 to a Phil Bolger design based on the original 18th century Admiralty drawings. She was a replica of HMS Rose, a sixth-rate frigate built in 1757.
The ship was inspected and certified by the United States Coast Guard and operated as a sail training vessel in the 1980s and 1990s, run by the HMS Rose Foundation based in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Although she is known by the national prefix HMS, meaning Her (or His) Majesty's Ship, she is not technically entitled to it as she does not hold a royal warrant.
She was sold to the 20th Century Fox film studio in 2001 to be used in the making of the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, in which she portrayed the fictional Royal Navy frigate Surprise with a story based on several of the books by Patrick O'Brian. After the film was complete, the ship was purchased by the San Diego Maritime Museum who plan on restoring her to sailing condition. The ship has officially been reregistered as HMS Surprise in honor of her role in the film. It is planned that she will sail again in March or April 2007.
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