Avast! There’s a problem at set, and someone must attend to it. Smithsonian Magazine investigates the heroes who stop the scallywags and save the cargo.
Pirates have been causing trouble ever since men first went down to the sea in ships, or at least since the 14th century B.C., when Egyptian records mention Lukkan pirates raiding Cyprus. A millennium later, Alexander the Great tried to sweep the Mediterranean clear of marauding bandits, to no avail. In 75 B.C., ship-based cutthroats took Julius Caesar hostage and ransomed him for 50 talents. The historian Plutarch wrote that Caesar then returned with several ships, captured the pirates and crucified the lot of them.
That hardly spelled the end of pirating. At the beginning of the 13th century A.D., Eustace the Monk terrorized the English Channel, and the European colonization of the Americas, with all its seaborne wealth, led to the so-called golden age of piracy, from 1660 to 1730-the era of Blackbeard, Black Bart, Captain Kidd and other celebrated pirates of the Caribbean. The era ended only after seafaring nations expanded their navies and prosecuted more aggressively to deal with the threat.
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Unlike the galleons of old, which sat low in the water and were easily boarded, the supertankers and bulk carriers of today may rise several stories-and yet they pose no great obstacle to thieves. Bullets and rocket-propelled grenades have persuaded many a captain to stop at sea; at that point, almost any pirate can climb to the deck by tossing grappling hooks over the rail.
Today’s pirates range from villainous seaside villagers to members of international crime syndicates. They ply their trade around the globe, from Iraq to Somalia to Nigeria, from the Strait of Malacca to the territorial waters off South America. No vessel seems safe, be it a supertanker or a private yacht. In November 2005, pirates in two speedboats tried to attack the cruise liner Seabourn Spirit off Somalia. The liner’s captain, Sven Erik Pedersen, outran them while driving them off with a Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD-a sonic weapon the United States military developed after the USS Cole was attacked by Al Qaeda terrorists in Yemen in 2000.
[tags]Pirates, FSM, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Noodly appendage, Smithsonian[/tags]