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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Did you know? There is a pirate cemetery in Madagascar.

Old Madagascar Map
John Bowen
Christopher Condent
William Kidd
Between 1680 and 1725, Madagascar became a pirate stronghold. Many unfortunate sailors became shipwrecked and stranded on the island. Those who survived settled down with the natives, or more often, found French or English colonies on the island or even pirate havens and thus became pirates themselves. 

Well known pirates such as William Kidd, Henry Every, John Bowen, and Thomas Tew made Antongil Bay and St. Mary’s Island (a small island 12 miles off the north-east coast of Madagascar) their bases of operations. The pirates plundered merchant ships in the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf. They deprived Europe-bound ships of their silks, cloth, spices, and jewels. Vessels captured going in the opposite direction (to India) lost their coin, gold, and silver. The pirates robbed the Indian cargo ships that traded between ports in the Indian Ocean as well as ships commissioned by the East India Companies of France, England, and the Netherlands. The pilgrim fleet sailing between Surat in India and Mocha on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula provided a favourite target, because the wealthy Muslim pilgrims often carried jewels and other finery with them to Mecca. Merchants in India, various Ports of Africa, and RĂ©union Island showed willingness to fence the pirates' stolen goods. The low-paid seamen who manned merchant ships in the Indian Ocean hardly put up a fight, seeing as they had little reason or motivation to risk their lives. The pirates often recruited crewmen from the ships they plundered.

Thomas Tew
Henry Every
This area in Madagascar is also said to be the area in which the pirates founded their own colony called Libertatia, but whether or not Libertatia actually existed is still a mystery.  Libertatia (also known as Libertalia) is said to have been a Resource-Based Economy colony founded in the late 17th century in Madagascar by pirates under the leadership of Captain James Misson. It is described in the book A General History of the Pyrates by Captain Charles Johnson, an otherwise unknown individual who may have been a pseudonym of Daniel Defoe. Much of the book is a mixture of fact and fiction, and it is possible the account of Libertatia is entirely fabricated.

Robert Culliford
Olivier Levasseur
Libertatia is said to have lasted for about 25 years. The precise location is not known, however, most sources say it stretched from the Bay of Antongil to Mananjary, including IleSainte Marie and Foulpointe. Thomas Tew, Misson, and an Italian Dominican priest named Caraccioli were involved in founding it.
Today the pirate cemetery is still found on the island of St. Mary Island (Ile Sainte Marie) and can still be visited. Below are a few pictures that was taken in the cemetry:


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