Friday, April 9, 2021

COINS FOUND IN NEW ENGLAND CLUES TO FAMOUS PIRATE

 9 April 2021: A recent news article in a Rhode Island newspaper caught my attention as it seems to have offered some answers about what happened to a really famous pirate that no one ever heard of. Henry Every, also known as Avery. The following from several research sources:

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 First, a little back story on the man:

Dubbed "The Arch Pirate" and "The King of Pirates" by contemporaries, Every was infamous for being one of few major pirate captains to escape with his loot without being arrested or killed in battle, and for being the perpetrator of what has been called the most profitable act of piracy in history. Although Every's career as a pirate lasted only two years, his exploits captured the public's imagination, inspired others to take up piracy, and spawned works of literature.

Every began his pirate career while he was first mate aboard the warship Charles II. As the ship lay anchored in the northern Spanish harbour of Corunna, the crew grew discontented as Spain failed to deliver a letter of marque and Charles II's owners failed to pay their wages, and they mutinied. Charles II was renamed the Fancy and Every elected as the new captain. 

Every's most famous raid was on a 25-ship convoy of Grand Mughal vessels making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, including the treasure-laden Ghanjah dhow Ganj-i-sawai and its escort, Fateh Muhammed. Joining forces with several pirate vessels, Every found himself in command of a small pirate squadron, and they were able to capture up to £600,000 in precious metals and jewels, equivalent to around £91.9 million in 2021, making him the richest pirate in the world. This caused considerable damage to England's fragile relations with the Mughals, and a c
ombined bounty of £1,000—an immense sum at the time—was offered by the Privy Council and the East India Company for his capture, leading to the first worldwide manhunt in recorded history.

Although a number of his crew were subsequently arrested, Every himself eluded capture, vanishing from all records in 1696; his whereabouts and activities after this period are unknown. Unconfirmed accounts state he may have changed his name and retired, quietly living out the rest of his life in either Britain or on an unidentified tropical island, while alternative accounts consider Every may have squandered his riches. He is considered to have died sometime between 1699 and 1714; his treasure has never been recovered. 

And now, the recent discovery:

 A few Arabian coins unearthed in a Rhode Island fruit orchard may have solved a cold case dating back to the 1600s.

The coins are among the oldest ever found in the United States and were discovered by an amateur historian and metal detector enthusiast.

And they could finally explain the disappearance of English pirate captain Henry Every.

“It’s a new history of a nearly perfect crime,” said Jim Bailey, who found some of the coins.

 Every became the world’s most wanted man in 1695 when his ship, the Fancy, attacked and raided a boat carrying Muslim pilgrims home to India from Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

The Ganj-i-Sawai was a royal vessel owned by the Indian emperor Aurangzeb, then one of the world’s most powerful men, and it was carrying tens of millions of dollars worth of gold and silver.

After murdering the crew and raping the women onboard, Every and his crew escaped to the Bahamas with a large bounty placed on their heads by King William III.

Until the find historians only knew for certain that Every sailed to Ireland in 1696, but Mr Bailey says that the coins are proof that the hunted pirate and his crew eventually made their way to New England

Mr Bailey unearthed the first coin, which was minted in Yemen in 1693, back in 2014 and now he and other enthusiasts have found 15 more.

Ten of those coins were discovered in Massachusetts, three in Rhode Island, and two in Connecticut.

Another coin was also found in North Carolina, where the crew are believed to have come ashore.

“It seems like some of his crew were able to settle in New England and integrate,” said Sarah Sportman, the state archaeologist for Connecticut.

“It was almost like a money laundering scheme.”

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Interesting tale and must have been quite a thrill for Mr. Bailey, when he understood what he had found! 

Until next time,

                           Fair Winds, 

                                 Old Salt

 


Friday, April 2, 2021

WORLD'S DEEPEST WRECK

 2 April 2021: Well, they freed the Ever Given - actually in under a week - but she's still "stuck" in the Canal while an investigation proceeds.... gotta love bureaucracy! On the positive side, however, ships are passaging through the Canal and it looks as though the shipping owners who directed their vessels to head south around Cape of Good Hope were wrong and the ones that waited will be at the destination ports before the ones taking the long route. Oh well, we gotta play the hand we're dealt and can only use the information available at the time.

Today's story is about a ship of the same class, Fletcher Class (DD445) which your humble scribe spent almost six years aboard in the mid-sixties (I was on 2 different, one slightly older and one slightly younger than Johnston) and so, somewhat near and dear to my heart. This comes from Rebecca Movelle of BBC News:

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A submersible has dived to the world’s deepest-known shipwreck.

The vessel reached the USS Johnston, which lies 6.5km (4 miles) beneath the waves in the Philippine Sea in the Pacific Ocean.

Mounts 51 and 52 (forward on main and 01 decks)

midships torpedo racks 01 deck

Explorers spent several hours surveying and filming the wreck over a series of dives.

The 115m-long US Navy destroyer sank during the Battle off Samar in 1944 after a fierce battle with a large fleet of Japanese warships.

Victor Vescovo, who led the expedition and piloted the sub, said: “The wreck is so deep so there's very little oxygen down there, and while there is a little bit of contamination from marine life, it's remarkably well intact except for the damage it took from the furious fight.”

The remains of the USS Johnston were first discovered in 2019, and parts of the destroyer were filmed with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV).

 

But a large part of the wreckage lay deeper than the ROV was able to reach, so for this expedition a submersible called the DSV Limiting Factor was deployed.

The vessel has a 9cm-thick (3.5in) titanium pressure hull that two people can fit inside, and it is able to descend to any depth. Previously it has explored the deepest place in the ocean, the Mariana Trench, which lies almost 11km down, as well as the Titanic.

It took several dives to relocate the wreck of the USS Johnston, but then Victor Vescovo, along with engineer Shane Eigler on one dive and naval historian Parks Stephenson on another, were able to spend time surveying and filming the destroyer.

Mr Vescovo said that the hull number – 557 – was clearly visible on both sides of its bow, and two full gun turrets were also intact.

USS Johnston (DD557) in better times
  

“The gun turrets are right where they're supposed to be, they're even pointing in the correct direction that we believe that they should have been, as they were continuing to fire until the ship went down,” he explained.

“And we saw the twin torpedo racks in the middle of the ship that were completely empty because they shot all the torpedoes at the Japanese.”

The team is now working with naval historians in the hope of shedding more light on the World War Two battle.

The relatively small USS Johnston was heavily outnumbered by the Japanese fleet, which included Japan’s largest battleship, but was awarded for its courage under heavy fire.

Of the crew of 327, only 141 survived the battle.

No human remains or clothing were found during the expedition, and the team laid wreaths before and after the dives. 

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I am sure some of you thought, "Wait - isn't the Titanic wreck the deepest?" Well, friends, no, it is not. The Johnston wreck is almost 2 miles deeper! There are many more wrecks from WWII in the western Pacific and researchers continue to seek them - to answer questions, not for riches or spoils. The ships o the 445 Class of Destroyer were fast (36 kts) and carried a variety of guns, generally 5 5"/38 (cal), 3 3'/50, and a battery of 20 and 40 mm anti aircraft guns as well as torpedo tubes, depth charges, and some K guns (thrown depth charges). They were indeed a formidable foe and their crews of 300 men and officers loved them.

Until next time, 

                                     Fair winds, 

                                            Old Salt