Wednesday, January 6, 2010

An Area Rich With Pirates

For decades, vacationers have been coming to North Myrtle Beach to relax, enjoy the sand, salt air and warm temperatures. But even before this area became a mecca for summertime visitors looking to escape the city, the Grand Strand, known then as Long Bay, was a magnet for a few unsavory characters. Edward "Blackbeard" Teach is among one of the most famous historical figures to call the Grand Strand a home port. The area's many coves and harbors provided excellent "hideaways" for pirates and legend has it that Blackbeard was particularly fond of going ashore in a small boat with one crewman to bury chests of treasure, only to return to his ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, alone.

Teach cultivated his fearsome reputation as a mental warfare tactic to inspire terror in his prey, encouraging early surrender with minimal resistance. His dress was entirely black, much like funeral dress to inspire fear of death. To add to his image, Teach took advantage of scare tactics. He was a tall man with a muscular physique, features he played up, inspiring men to stay away from personal confrontation. He had a dark black beard, which before battle was braided and tied with colorful ribbon, and held pieces of match cord that were slowly burning. The smoke rising up would give him a grim halo, aiding in a satanic appearance. He was equipped with a belt that held cutlasses, pistols, and daggers. Across his chest he carried bandolier with six ready to fire pistols. All in all, his image was that of a man, or perhaps a demon, to be reckoned with.

Women pirates also terrorized the waters off the coast of South Carolina. One of the most famous, Anne Bonny, proved to be just as bloodthirsty as her male counterparts. Bonny, a red-haired beauty with a fierce temper, is believed to be the daughter of a prosperous Charles Town planter. At 16, she ran away with a sailor, and they joined pirates in the Atlantic. Bonny encouraged fellow pirates to raid the Carolina coast, and she killed opponents in battle with a dagger. Eventually, Bonny fell for Calico Jack Rackham, a pirate known for his fancy calico attire. The two sailed and fought together until a British sloop captured them. Bonny blamed their capture on Calico Jack’s poor fighting and cowardice. As he visited her the day of his execution, legend has it that she said, “I’m sorry to see this happen, but if you had fought like a man, you would not now be hanged like a dog!” Bonny, however, escaped the gallows due to her pregnancy. But, after her capture, no one knows for certain what became of Anne Bonny. Some legends say she reconciled with her father and remained in Charles Town, while others say that she returned to a life of piracy.

Piracy also influenced the names of several locales throughout South Carolina. Drunken Jack Island allegedly was named for a pirate who, drunk from too much rum, died on the island. Murrells Inlet supposedly was named for Captain John Murrell, who used the inlet as his headquarters while he preyed on ships at sea.

Many areas throughout South Carolina felt the influence of piracy.
Although each pirate’s legend is unique, the men and women who thrived during the “Golden Age of Piracy” shared several traits—they yearned for adventure, loved the seafaring life and craved the wealth that piracy provided. And, according to legend, they took advantage of the marshes and islands throughout South Carolina to hide their treasures for safekeeping until their return from the sea.

On your next visit to North Myrtle Beach, you might want to try your hand at treasure hunting. With time, ingenuity and some luck, you may uncover riches from these colorful pirates’ past.

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