Blackbeard Pirate Relics, Gold Found

March 30, 2009—A brass navigational instrument known as a chart divider is among artifacts recently recovered from a shipwreck thought to be the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the ship of the infamous 18th-century pirate Blackbeard, archaeologists said in March 2009.

Some of the newfound relics add to evidence that the ship belonged to the pirate. “”We feel pretty comfortable that that’s what this is,” said Marke Wilde-Ramsing, director of the Queen Anne’s Revenge project for the North Carolina Office of State Archaeology.

Underwater archaeologists from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources have been excavating the wreck—which lies 22 feet (7 meters) underwater a few miles off Beaufort, North Carolina—since 1997.

View photos and Blackbeard’s history here.

Ship’s cook seized by pirates blames employers

A crew member on a U.S.-flagged cargo ship captured by pirates off the coast of Somalia is suing his employers, claiming they sent him into pirate-infested waters without adequate protection, his attorney said Monday.

More than $200M pledged to beat Somali pirates

Countries have pledged $213 million at an international conference to boost security in Somalia and halt the country’s growing piracy problem.

When the City Held Pirates in High Regard

When the City Held Pirates in High Regard

Give or take, it is 5,000 miles from the Indian Ocean off Somalia to the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan. That is a vast distance, but few places on earth can match New York for its history of hospitality to pirates.

On Tuesday, the accused Somalian pirate man — or gullible boy, if you believe his parents, or possible victim of kidnappers, as his lawyer speculates — arrived in shackles and jumpsuit for arraignment on charges that he committed piracy on the high seas. Even worse, he is said to have totally bungled the job.

It has been many decades since a good pirate case has landed here, and for now, the laws and penalties are stacked to the skies against the defendant, Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse; gangster capitalism has its limits.

The authorities say that Mr. Muse, using a portable ladder and carrying a gun, was the first pirate to board the Maersk Alabama, 280 miles off the coast of Somalia. He quickly botched things.

After forcing the captain to open the safe, which held $30,000 in cash, Mr. Muse demanded that members of the Alabama crew, hiding in a safe room, come to the ship’s bridge, according to a complaint filed by an F.B.I. agent.

Mr. Muse was persuaded that they would be afraid to surrender while he was holding a weapon, so he put his gun down and canvassed the ship — by then, sitting in darkness because the power had been turned off. He was promptly tackled by a crew member and was soon tied up.

Eventually, though, the balance of power shifted: the other pirates, who were holding the Alabama’s captain, demanded that Mr. Muse be delivered back to them. The pirates and captain got into a lifeboat. Before long, an American naval ship had arrived, and, the complaint says, Mr. Muse tried to swap the captain’s release for the safe passage of the pirates. He also needed medical attention for his hand, and so went aboard the Navy ship. Thus his relocation to New York.

History shows that the city has long held pirates in high regard. Successful ones, that is. Under Col. Benjamin Fletcher, who became the British governor of New York in 1692, piracy was a leading economic development tool in the city’s competition with the ports of Boston and Philadelphia.

At the time, Britain and France were at war, a nearly chronic condition, and each country commissioned private vessels to attack the other side’s ships. These privateers carried “letters of marque” that granted them authority to seize enemy cargo, which they were supposed to bring to a court for proper disposition.

It turned out that it was far more profitable to simply skip the legal requirements and board any vulnerable ship, no matter whether it was flying the flag of friend or foe. The big challenge was to find a port where pirated goods — rather than those seized under the privateering laws — could be sold.

In Governor Fletcher, the pirates found a most willing host, who could be bought for 100 Spanish dollars, according to Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace in “Gotham” (Oxford University Press 1998). Pirate money pulsed through New York. “This boodling was worth a hundred thousand pounds a year to the city,” they wrote. “Tavern keepers, whores, retailers and others flourished as buccaneers swaggered through the streets with purses full of hard money — Arabian dinars, Hindustani mohurs, Greek byzants, French louis d’or, Spanish doubloons.”

AMONG the most successful privateers of the era was Captain William Kidd, who was hanged in England after being convicted of piracy. Kidd used some of his wealth to build a fine home and helped establish the first Trinity Church, which to this day remains one of the city’s most important landowners. Other financiers of piracy, whose names endure in various forms around New York, were Frederick Philipse, Stephanus Van Cortlandt, Peter Schuyler and Thomas Willet.

During the Revolutionary War, privateering became a vital element in the rebellion against England. One merchant, John Broome, moved to Connecticut to set up a privateering operation that worked Long Island Sound.

It was not only tactically useful, but a lucrative business as well, with thousands of American seamen involved in one way or another, said Mr. Burrows.

But New York’s long entanglement with pirates is not necessarily good news for Mr. Muse. “I don’t think he has deep pockets,” Mr. Burrows said. “They brought him to the right town at the wrong time. The place was only hospitable if you had money to show.”


Somali PM: Anti-pirate patrols not working

Somalia’s prime minister told CNN Thursday that the international naval patrols in the Gulf of Aden are not solving the problem of piracy in the region.

Suspect in ship hijacking charged with piracy

A Somali suspect in the hijacking of the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama has been charged with piracy, a count that carries a minimum life sentence.
Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse arrives in the United States on Monday. He was charged with piracy Tuesday.

Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse also has been charged with conspiracy to seize a ship by force, conspiracy to commit hostage-taking and two firearm charges, according to a criminal complaint released by the U.S. attorney’s office in the southern district of New York.

Muse “conducted himself as the leader” of the pirates who allegedly took over the Maersk Alabama, according to the criminal complaint.

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Muse could be tried as an adult.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck had ordered the media and public out of the courtroom earlier while he evaluated Muse’s age.

Muse’s father in Somalia told defense attorneys the young man was born on November 20, 1993 — making him 15, the defense attorneys said.

However, the prosecution argued otherwise, saying Muse made statements that suggest he is older.

Before Peck closed the courtroom, Muse wiped his hand over his face at one point, and it appeared he was crying. He had worn a broad smile late Monday when he arrived in New York escorted by a phalanx of law enforcement officers. See timeline of events that led to piracy case »

Muse was arrested in the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama, a cargo ship that pirates attacked on April 8 about 350 miles off the Somali coast. See an interactive map of 2009 pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa »

Peck read the young man his rights and said attorneys had been appointed to represent him because the suspect did not have the resources to hire representation himself.

Muse said through an interpreter that he understood and said, “I don’t have any money.”

Pirates attacked the Maersk Alabama, a cargo ship, on April 8 about 350 miles off the Somali coast.

According to the criminal complaint, two of the 20 crew members — all Americans — saw lights heading toward the Maersk Alabama around 4:30 a.m. on April 8, while the ship was in the Indian Ocean.

After a “brief time,” the lights disappeared, the complaint said, but about two hours later, the same crew members saw a small boat approaching and later heard “what sounded like” gunshots, the complaint said.

Crew Member 1 then heard the ship’s captain — later identified as Capt. Richard Phillips — on the radio saying that two pirates were on the ship’s bridge. A third crew member, Crew Member 3, also heard the radio message and began shutting down the ship’s power, the complaint said.

The complaint said Muse, who was carrying a gun, was the first alleged pirate on the ship, and said the attackers used a portable ladder to climb on board.

According to the complaint, Muse had fired his gun at Phillips, the captain said, and then took $30,000 from the ship’s safe after he forced Phillips to open it. Video Watch Muse being hauled into court »

Muse demanded that the Maersk Alabama be stopped and that the crew give him the number of the ship’s owner, the complaint said.

The captain then ordered the crew to the bridge after Muse ordered him to do so, the complaint said, citing Crew Member 2.

Muse then began canvassing the dark ship with Crew Member 2 as a guide, the complaint said. While they were going through the ship, Crew Member 3, who had not come to the bridge, tackled Muse to the ground, the complaint said. Crew Member 2 helped subdue Muse, and the two tied the young man’s hands with wire and took him to the ship’s safe room, where several crew members were hiding.

After several hours, the remaining pirates said they would leave the ship if Muse was returned to them, and if a lifeboat was given to them.

Phillips boarded the lifeboat with them and the ship’s crew freed Muse, who then boarded the lifeboat, according to the criminal complaint.

The boat floated a short distance from the Maersk, even as the Navy’s USS Bainbridge arrived the next day.

Over the next three days, officers on the Bainbridge communicated with the pirates by radio. “In those communications, the pirates threatened to kill the captain if they were not provided with safe passage away from the scene,” the complaint said.

At one point, Phillips tried to escape and the pirates shot at him, the complaint said.

On April 12, Muse boarded the USS Bainbridge and demanded safe passage for himself and the other pirates in exchange for Phillips’ release. Muse also received medical treatment while he was on the warship, the complaint said.

While Muse was away from the lifeboat, Navy SEALs shot and killed the three remaining pirates.

The U.S. Navy recovered two loaded AK-47 assault rifles; two gunstraps, each containing three AK-47 magazines; one handgun magazine; and multiple cell phones and handheld radios from the lifeboat, according to the complaint.

‘Robust action’ could curtail piracy, expert says

Both the United States and France pulled off-high profile rescues in the waters off the Horn of Africa in the past week, killing a total of five pirates to free hostages who had been holed up for days.

French navy seizes 11 suspected pirates

The French Navy captured 11 suspected pirates off the coast of Kenya Wednesday, the French Ministry of Defense announced.

Crewman’s e-mail gives harrowing details of hijacking

An e-mail from one of the crewmen aboard the Maersk Alabama tells a gripping tale of sailors fighting back against pirates who had taken over their ship.

Is Obama serious about war on piracy?

U.S. President Barack Obama won a battle against Somali pirates. But does he really want to go to war?