Around 1630, French buccaneers driven from Hispaniola settled this mountainous, rocky island off Haiti’s north coast, eventually attacking Spanish galleons laden with silver from South America and silks and spices from China. Henry Morgan, Francis L’Ollonais, and Pierre LeGrand settled here for at least some time. In the first Pirates of the Caribbean, this is the rollicking pirate town where Jack Sparrow and Will Turner recruit ranks into their crew.
In the Pirates of the Caribbean, Port Royal is where Captain Jack Sparrow is jailed before being freed by Will Turner. In reality, 16th-century buccaneers (pirates originally from Hispaniola) were encouraged by the British government to settle in this major shipping center and attack passing French and Spanish vessels. It endured as a hedonistic pirate enclave—the “Wickedest City on Earth”—until June 1692, when a massive earthquake sent a huge chunk of the town to the ocean floor, killing thousands. “Some considered the quake divine retribution for its sins,” says Marc Nucup of The Mariners’ Museum in Virginia.
It was only a small ramshackle village of tents and lean-tos made out of old sail cloth. But any Golden Age pirate worth his salt operated here for at least some part of the Golden Age—, like Calico Jack” Rackham, Anne Bonny and Blackbeard. This was the only fortified pirate republic in all of the Caribbean until the British sent Woodes Rogers, a former privateer himself, to drive the pirates from the Bahamas. By 1725, most were gone, and the islands’ motto became “Expulsis Piratis—Resituta Commercia” (Pirates Expelled—Commerce Restored).
During the Golden Age of Piracy, St. Croix was an unclaimed, largely abandoned island with a protected harbor and a good position on the Triangular Trade—perfect for a passing pirate hideout. In January 1717, a British man-of-war shelled pirate John Martel and his crew here; the survivors were left stranded and starving until two other pirate sloops arrived and absconded with them to Virgin Gorda.
With its jagged coastline of private coves and safe anchorages, this British Virgin Island was the hideout for all manner of bold-faced names, including Blackbeard and William “Captain” Kidd. For a couple of weeks in 1717, “Black Sam” Bellamy and his gang set up a temporary pirate camp in Spanish Town right under the nose of a British deputy governor.
Not much shipping passed within sight of La Blanquilla, just off the coast of Venezuela, making it a “good hideout for those trying to dodge authorities out of Barbados and French Martinique,” says author Colin Woodard, the author of a new book abour piracy's golden age, The Republic of Pirates. Just a few months after “Black Sam” Bellamy set up camp here in the 18th century, his flagship, the Whydah, sank off the coast off Cape Cod, where it was finally discovered in 1984; for the first time, some of those treasures will embark on a national tour in June, 2007.
Surrounded by narrow reefs and shallow channels inaccessible to merchant ships, Roatan became the base of hundreds of pirates in the 17th century, including buccaneer legends Laurens de Graff and Henry Morgan. From here, they staged attacks on Spanish galleons carrying Asian porcelain and Peruvian silver. Rumor has it that treasure hunters unearthed part of Henry Morgan’s cache here in the 1960s—and that there’s more to be found.
At the end of the 17th century, the French attacked this island with the help of a privateer by the name of William “Captain” Kidd. British by birth but French by employment, Kidd quickly turn-coated, stealing off with one of the French ships, according to Angus Konstam author of “The History of Pirates.” Kidd became an instant hero when he sailed to the British port of Nevis. Later accused of illegal pirating, he was executed and hung over the Thames River as a warning to would-be pirates.
According to Colin Woodard, Edward “Blackbeard” Thatch, who terrified victims by lighting candles in his beard and arming himself to the teeth, shelled this island on November 28, 1717. Leaving Guadeloupe town in flames (half the town was lost in the fire), he stole off with a French sugar ship.
The Cayman Islands’ position smack dab in the middle of the shipping channel between Mexico and Cuba made it a perfect stopover for pirates. Around 1722, one of pirate Thomas Anstis’s ships ran aground on Grand Cayman and he lost dozens of his crew to attacking British men-of-war who had sighted them. The islands still capitalize on their pirate history with an annual Pirates Week Festival in November.