The Bahamas were at one point one of the premier stopping grounds for pirates in the Caribbean. The presence of pirates on the islands of the Bahamas is a large, influential and unforgettable piece of Bahamian history. The Pirates Museum in Nassau Bahamas on the island of New Providence chronicles the golden age of pirates in excellent interactive displays and a replica of the pirate ship called "The Revenge." Visiting Nassau Bahamas is one of the best places to go and things to do in the Bahamas to get to know the history of pirates even better.
The Golden Age of Pirates
The time period known as the Golden Age of Pirates in the Bahamas varies from source to source. Some say it lasted 30 years, from 1690 to 1720. Others say it started as early as 1670 and lasted for 70 years, instead of thirty. What can be agreed upon is that the late 1600s and most of the early- to mid-1700s were a golden time for pirating on the great seas of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. And the Bahamas were the favored hunting grounds for the best pirates of the Caribbean. Even with Spanish and English military fleets trying to scour Nassau Bahamas and the other Bahamas islands, the pirates remained strong til at least the middle of the century. The first time the pirates were somewhat defeated in battle was almost 50 years after they first took unofficial claim of the Bahamas. Before 1718, the British government attempted to lay claim to the islands but they were not powerful enough to defeat the savvy pirates until the islands' first British governor, Woodes Rogers, was able to finally drive out the pirates and establish an official British colony.
Why the Bahamas Were Ideal for Pirates
With its 229 islands, 661 cays, and 2387 islets, the islands of the Bahamas are an ideal place for mischievous pirates looking to perform secret attacks and seeking to escape governments that were trying to eliminate them. The unique geography of the islands allowed even the largest of pirate ships to hide in a huge variety of coves, inlets, shoals and channels to make it complicated to find the pirates. But mostly, they used the geography of the islands to execute surprise attacks on any ship passing close to the Bahamas islands. These surprise attacks were also feasible thanks to the islands' proximity to a variety of shipping routes including the famous Windward Passage. Most pirates based out of the Bahamas chose this method of surprise attacks versus heading out to the seas searching for vessels.
Bahamas Pirate Legends
Several of the world's most famous pirates did plenty of their pillaging and treasure-seeking right off the waters of the Bahamas. One of these pirate legends that lived in the Bahamas islands during the golden age of pirates is Calico Jack, who was romantically involved with another pirate legend, Anne Bonny. The two met in New Providence Island, where Nassau Bahamas is currently located. Though the English were trying to upkeep a colony on the island, it was basically run by pirates. Various rumors abound as to why Anne decided to leave her husband to pursue the risky and thrilling life aboard pirate ships. To become a pirate, Anne had to pose as a man, which she did successfully and gained prominence aboard pirate ships, particularly when her beau's ship was attacked by the English and it was her and fellow female-dressed-male pirate Mary Read who single-handedly fought the attack while the other pirates on board were too drunk to battle. While this is one of the battles that truly sealed the two ladies' status as legends, they also lost the battle and the pirate fleet was captured and tried. Calico Jack was hung. Both Mary and Anne were able to avoid immediate hanging due to being pregnant; Mary, however, died in prison, while Anne granted reprieve after giving birth to her child but there is no record of her after this. Another pirate legend of the Bahamas is Blackbeard, known as the toughest and most indestructible of pirates. Blackbeard was huge, especially for the time, and he was boundless when it came to fighting. Legend has it that he would weave kemp into his large black beard and keep it smoldering during fights to quickly light his pistols. He was really only out on the waters for two years but the large number of ships he plundered gave him notoriety in the Caribbean. In the pirate colony on Nassau, the other pirates voted him in as their own Privateers' Republic magistrate. It was in 1718 that a British fleet finally fought the once-unstoppable Blackbeard to the death, though legend has it that the fierce pirate kept fighting with five bullets and three sabre-thrusts before he finally died.