Lying 250 miles off the East Coast of Africa is the beautiful tropical isle of Madagascar. A large island (slightly smaller than the state of California), it sits within striking distance of the Indian Ocean and during the Golden Age of Piracythe luxurious treasures of the Great Mogul in the Red Sea.
Madagascar became the pivot point for pirates sailing the Pirate Round, the long, arduous journey from the Atlantic Ocean around the Cape of Good Hope to the Indian Ocean and the return home. The island had deep harbors, expansive beaches for careening vessels, freshwater springs, an abundance of citrus fruit for preventing scurvy, and ample livestock to fatten the crew. To the pirates' delight, British warships rarely ventured east of the Cape of Good Hope and although the East India Companys merchant ships were well-armed, their undermanned crews offered relatively no resistance to bloodthirsty pirates.
Madagascar became an especially prosperous pirate haven following the successful exploits of Henry Every and Thomas Tew in the Red Sea. The island was so well-suited for the pirate fraternity that Adam Baldridge, a veteran buccaneer himself, built a stone fortress with a battery of forty great guns protecting a bottle-necked harbor on the tiny neighboring island of St. Marys. Here he had reign over dozens of warehouses filled with pirate plunder and acted as an agent for New York pirate broker Frederick Philipse. While safely careening their ships, pirates could barter their booty for produce, livestock, tools, guns, ammunition, and rum, all at significantly devalued prices. For example, Baldridge would purchase rum from pirates for two shillings a gallon and then ship it to New York to Philipse, who retailed it for three pounds sterling a gallon in St. Marys.
It was not until a tribal revolt on St. Marys in 1697, and the subsequent arrival of the British Royal Navy to protect Madagascar's coastal waters on behalf of the Great Mogul and the British East India Company, that the tropical pirate stronghold was abandoned for safer lands.
|< Prev||Next >|