Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pirate flag of Blackbeard (Edward Teach)Image via WikipediaPiracy is in the news these days, as shipping off the Horn of Africa falls prey not to sailing ships flying the Jolly Roger, but rather to small speedboats harassing much larger ships. The Indian Navy scored a victory against one pirate crew yesterday, and shipowners are taking steps to protect themselves.

Of course, this is nothing new. Even in the 21st Century we have pirates because the ocean is vast, ships are small, and the world's navies and coast guards can't be everywhere. In addition, local economies support the pirates because they bring in money to buy supplies (and rum or its equivalent) and the profit motive is a strong inducement not to turn the pirates away. That helped to make Fernandina, New Orleans and Key West rich cities in their time, and Port Royal in Jamaica a haven for pirates and the merchants who depended upon them.

Science fiction fans have long been regaled with tales of "space pirates", and I predict that as shipping branches out from our solar system (and I do believe that will happen, maybe not in my lifetime, but some day), we'll have more pirate tales to marvel over.
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