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'The Marooned Pirate'

The ‘Marooning’ of a Pirate - a fatal and cruel penalty for unruly crew members and mutinied captains. A punishment warranted to murderers, thieves, cowards, rapists and bad captains that almost guaranteed certain death.


Both Bartholomew Roberts and John Phillips 'Pirate Codes' included marooning as a punishment and listed precisely what items the disgraced pirate would be given if marooned on a deserted island, which was preferably a sand bar without fresh water, food, or shelter.


The guilty pirate took with him nothing but the clothes on their back, a petty amount of food, minimal water/rum and a loaded pistol with just enough gun powder for one shot. His mates then returned to their ship and sailed away leaving him to die.


The island was a prison for which there was little chance of escape. The hot sun burned and blistered his skin and without plentiful food and water he starved and became dehydrated. At high tide, the water would soon flood the island and leave him standing in water up to his neck. And woe to him if sharks infested the surrounding water. Many marooned pirates would slowly but surely start to turn to the provoking pistol to end the torture of complete abandonment quickly, instead of waiting for the inevitable death of drowning (or any of the above). But damn those who committed suicide, as men of the time believed such an act would condemn his immortal soul to hell forever. Making it one of the most severest of all pirate punishments.


Some men however survived marooning, but those were rare cases. If pirates rescued a marooned man, then they might allow him to join their crew. If merchantmen or warships found him however, they assumed him a pirate and delivered him to the nearest port for trial. An experience that happened to unpopular pirate captain, Charles Vane. Although a castaway rather than a marooned pirate, Vane was stranded on an unpopulated island for several months after a shipwreck. Identified as a pirate in 1720, he was taken to Port Royal, found guilty, and hanged.


One of the most famous cases of a pirate surviving being marooned is the pirate captain, Edward England. In 1720, near the African island of Comoros, England and his men got into a violent conflict with James Macrae. After 10 days of hiding on an island, England and Macrae agreed to a peace deal, which England would soon come to regret. The peace deal immensely upset England’s crew and they accused their captain of coddling the prisoners. Captain England was subsequently voted out as captain and marooned on the island of Mauritius for his actions. After four months, England and the three loyal crewman that had been stranded with him managed to build a boat and sail to the pirate safe haven of St Augustine’s Bay in Madagascar. Here it is understood where he died in the winter not long after arriving.


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