Scurvy & Scary Facts About Being A Pirate

The life of a pirate wasn’t always full of adventure and partying. Sailing is a slow way to get around so pirates could be at sea for many months, which meant life was sometimes really, really boring, plus the food they ate was often revolting.

Pirates would collect fresh food and drink when they landed, but because they didn’t have fridges, freezers, or even cans of Baked Beans, the food had to be eaten quickly once they went back to sea or it would go stale and moldy. In fact if a ship had been at sea for a few months chances are that all the pirates had to eat were stale, dry crackers covered in weevils (a kind of beetle.) YUCK!

Not eating enough good food often made the pirates sick. Scurvy was caused by a lack of vitamin C, which is found in lemons, limes and oranges. Pirates knew they had it when their teeth started falling out, their skin went pale, their legs got very fat and when they had to keep racing off to the toilet. If, on the other hand, they only had a stomach ache and spent all their time going to the toilet, they probably had Dysentery.

Another common disease on a pirate ship was Gangrene. If a pirate got a cut on their arms or legs sometimes it got infected and the skin started to die - this is Gangrene. Then the only way to keep the pirate alive was to saw off the arm or leg.

Or what about Yellow Fever? That was caught from mosquitoes and gave the pirate a high fever. Some people just got better from it, others vomited black blood and died.

I told you a pirate’s life wasn’t always fun! The other revolting bit is what happened to them when they got caught. (If you get nightmares don’t read this bit.)

If a pirate was caught by the Navy, went to court and found guilty he was usually hung on the gallows in front of a large crowd of people. Sometimes he might even be decapitated, which means his head was cut off. Then if the Government were really fed up with pirates and wanted to put others off becoming one they might put his head on a stick and place it somewhere lots of people could see it, or if the pirate had been hung, the body would be hung in chains. This meant putting it in a metal cage (the same shape as a body) and leaving it hanging outside till the birds and animals had eaten the body.

EWW! That’s truly gross. Even weevily biscuits sound better after that!

So do ye still want to be a pirate, me Hearty?


The Pirate
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