When it comes to legends of Pirates of the Caribbean, Captain Jack Sparrow is a favorite of most especially to those nouveau to the historical phenomena.
Others that get a notable mention is Black Beard alias Edward Teach who is reputed to have lit fuses on his whiskers to look more fearsome. Alongside him is Long John Silver though to the best of my knowledge he never made the rank of captain but his exploits and respect he demanded from his cohorts have lasted for eons. Captain Flint is reckoned as a brilliant strategist, and his prowess shines brighter than most other naval commanders, howbeit I find him problematic due to the conflict of his soul or being if that is what is left of the soul after some mass murders. The one true pirate in most connoisseurs eyes is captain Charles Vane; a former slave as a boy he rose to captaincy under the pupilage of Black Beard and was a right partner and adversary to Flint. Unlike Teach, he didn’t have to fake appearances of fiercenesses or even concerning Flint he accepted his role and personage as a career buccaneer of the high-seas, a vocation akin to a highway robber, a bandit.
Long before any of this characters both fictitious and real were born, an actual pirate had already made history and indeed written his name in the annals of the record books. His exploits were never to be topped to date, and he is probably the reason most of this other pretenders to the throne ever pledged allegiance to the Jolly Roger. Henry B. Avery was born on 23rd of August 1659, at the age of 34 years after leaving the British Royal Navy he was charged to the Charles II. A warship for merchants built in tandem with the king of Spain after whom it was explicitly named to harangue and harass French ships. The man of war docked at the port of Corunna in Spain following its tedious voyage down the river Thames in its maiden voyage. Here the crew mutinied as a consequence of unpaid six months stipulated salaries due to bureaucracy. Henry was elected captain although it is not clear whether this was a motivation for his active role in the treachery. Their plot didn’t win them friends at the port and as such had to flee and sought infamy in the Atlantic ocean. The ship careened in the bight of Benin and was razeed which is nautical lingo for the decimation of the number of decks and crew onboard a galleon. This misfortune was a silver lining in their cloud as they made repairs, many non-vital parts were discarded, and the FANCY as it was renamed was able to be upgraded and was now among the fastest ships in the seven seas. After pillaging supplies from ships heading to Europe from Barbados and beyond, captain Avery was able to convince the seadogs to make sail for the Indian ocean rather than the west indies. They sojourned down to the southern tip of Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. Along the way, they ambushed a couple of ships which they added to their inventory. Henry was the de-facto commodore or rear-admiral of at least five ships and a crew of up to six hundred men when they finally lay in waiting for an ambush at the Babel-el-Mandeb or straits of tears between modern-day Djibouti and Yemen. The victims of their ploy were Muslim pilgrims coming from Mecca reputed to be carrying vast amounts of treasure with them. The first target was able to slip past unnoticed, but the privateers gave chase and caught up with them five days later, where they boarded and looted with not much of a resistance. The bounty recovered is said to be sizeable enough to buy the FANCY at least fifty times over. The second prey wouldn’t be a pushover, it was a massive ship with no less than eighty cannons commissioned by the sixth Mughal, the emperor of most of India sub-continent at that moment, dubbed GUNJ-i-SAWAI meaning ‘exceeding treasure’ but also known as Gunsway. Only three out of five of the fleet under Avery engaged, one of the other two spectated while the other had been abandoned for being too slow. The pirate numbers suffered major casualties, but as fate would have it, lady luck smiled at them when misfortune struck the Indian’s ship when one of the cannons exploded. Perhaps in the heat of the battle, the barrels and hogsheads expanded, and the projectile got stuck when fired. With the smell of gunpowder in the air and taste of blood in their mouth, the ensuing melee turned the odds to the attacker’s favor. What transpired next is a sordid tale of deprivation, as remnants of the GUNSWAY were tortured for days to reveal where they had hidden the wealth while some female passengers opted to jump overboard and drown to avoid being Sulley-ed.
Some reports indicate allegedly captain Avery was handed a relation of the emperor himself: a grand-daughter of emperor Aurangzeb was said to be part of the entourage coming home after Hajj. The illicit gains from this single 17th-century hunt were at least £600k, half a million gold and silver rials alongside other gemstones and valuables. The FANCY and her partners in crime most likely headed to Madagascar to the pirate-utopia kingdom that predates the more notorious one in Nassau, Bahamas, the GUNSWAY limped back to the Aryan subcontinent. The score and scourge by then were deemed even more reprehensible than that of the 21st century indigenous fishermen turned pirates of Somalia. The tally of what Avery and his 600 or so scallywags were to divvy-up is estimated to be worth currently 60-100 million US dollars when adjusted for inflation. The Human Rights abuses would also lead the British government to declare H.Avery as ‘ hostis humani generis’ or enemy of the human race. Subsequently, the first global manhunt and international arrest warrant ever were issued against him. Avery had beforehand purportedly given British merchant ships a secret signal that they could use to avert an attack by them, but the British India Company had seen trade volumes go down by 90% and thus had to pacify the ruler of India to not lose any more business. No longer welcome in the Indian ocean, Avery and his band of merry men high-tailed back to West Africa.
One of Bob Marley’s most famous lyrics is ” Old pirates, yes, they rob I Sold I to the merchant ships” from his ‘Redemption song’; Avery had been involved in the slave trade after leaving the navy prior to becoming first mate of the CHARLES II, before setting off to the West Indies they purchased ninety slaves whom they used as labourers and in that era was the most consistent commodity of trade, since they didn’t want to use foreign currency as it would raise suspicion. The French and Danes that had been conscripted before the escapades in East Africa had chosen to leave. The crew had received at least £1000 each plus other gemstones, but they had a £500 bounty on their heads. On arrival to Nassau, they bribed the governor with £1000 and left 50 tons of ivory, barrels of gunpowder and ammunition along with the vessel FANCY itself as a token of appreciation for not snitching them out to the British authorities.
For all their pettifoggery, Avery’s scoundrels were soon bored out of their mind with no one and nothing to spend their hard earned *cough* cash on in the sparsely populated Caribbean outpost. They chose to make headway to the United States, a decision that proved fatal for most of them but Long-Ben as Avery was also known as was able to escape to Britain. A number of his skeleton crew were arrested, tried and hanged. One in particular turned state witness against the others. According to Henry’s descendants or relatives, he died before the turn of the 18th century in 1769 A.D. in abject poverty and destitute at the age of forty years after apparently being swindled by unscrupulous jewelers and merchants. The Swahili people have a proverb that states ” pwagu hupata pwaguzi“, which translates to roughly mean a pickpocket will encounter a car-jacker.
“Look at me! I’m the captain now!.” ~ actor ABDI-RAHMAN BARKHAD in the film ‘Captain Phillips’ (2013)
Via Sir Alan