Still with us today – It’s hard to believe that pirates are back in our world. In many ways, the Somali pirates bear a striking resemblance to those of the so-called “Golden Age” of pirates in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

Piracy expert Eric Browne says, “Piracy requires certain circumstances in order to thrive, namely friendly ports, a ready market for stolen goods and/or people willing to accept stolen currency, disgruntled men willing to risk the possible consequences, and lax enough security to operate. Somalia, just like the colonial Atlantic and Caribbean world of Blackbeard and Black Bart, is thus a ‘perfect’ setting for piracy.

“The tactics of piracy have changed little through the ages. Pirates use small, fast boats to attack large, less maneuverable ships. They pick targets they can easily overcome with surprise and superior numbers. Pirates tend to use hand-held weapons. In the past it was cutlass and pistol, today automatic rifles and RPG rockets. Sometimes pirates are brutal, but generally they do not kill those who willingly surrender. The ‘short, merry life’ of the typical golden age pirate has a direct counterpart today. What money the Somali pirates obtain is generally spent lavishly on things like clothes, cars, food, and large houses. Money goes out as fast as it comes in, with no thought towards the future.”

But piracy, like most theft, is a short-term occupation. Browne says, “When it becomes too much of a problem, governments allocate sufficient money and manpower to make piracy too dangerous a profession to pursue. India has already sunk one pirate vessel and military pressure is sure to increase in the coming weeks. Soon the pirate boomtowns of Somalia will disappear, but perhaps Somali children will still hear tales of piracy in their country’s waters for centuries to come.” Will they search for buried treasure?

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