Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tools Of The Trade: The Big Score

Yesterday we spoke of “Long Ben” and his enormous treasure ripped from the Grand Moghul’s ship Ganj-i-Sawai. But Henry Avery was not the only pirate to profit in the extreme from prizes in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Here, courtesy of The Wordsworth Dictionary of Pirates, is a surprising list of enormous booty taken by ships from 1690 to 1725 that worked the same round as modern Somali pirates. The new kids only wish they could do so well.

First, Avery himself, whose booty in jewels, gold and silver taken in his 40 gun ship Fancy amounted to approximately 105 million in modern dollars.

Dirk Chivers commanding Soldado and Robert Culliford commanding Mocha took Great Mohammed in the Red Sea in 1698. The total haul was in cash amounting to about $190,000.

John Bowen in Speaker raided what may have been an Indian Pilgrim vessel off Arabia in 1700 and came away with $175,000. In 1703, while working with Thomas Howard in command of Speedy Return, Bowen took two Arabs in the Red Sea for a total prize of $100,000.

Edmund Condent (sometimes called Christopher Condent, although the two pirates may be different people all together) sailing in the Flying Dragon in 1720 brought down an Arab merchant carrying specie, silk, spices and opium to the tune of $200,000.

Also in 1720, the unfortunate Edward England took the East Indiaman Cassandra with his Fancy and Victory, netting about $100,000. The prize was taken not far from the port of Johanna, Madagascar and not long before England’s crew dumped him to beg in the streets of that same port.

Finally, in one of the last great strikes in and around the Indian Ocean, John Taylor in Cassandro in consort with former buccaneer Olivier La Bouche in Victoire took the Portuguese treasure galleon Nostra Senhora de Cabo in 1721. The total prize, including a large chest of diamonds along with other salable goods may have amounted to nearly 100 million dollars.

For those brave, or crazy, enough the money was good. When the Royal, French and later the American navies cracked down and began a system of escorts for merchants in and around India and Arabia, the well dried up. But the prizes are still spoken of, often with awe. Most of us could find a lot to do with our share of a million dollars.


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! A prize of $100 million in those days, even divided amoungst two crews, would still probably be enough to set you up for life... But I imagine those kind of prizes were few and far between. Otherwise they would have had a hard time keeping the pirates away, even with the naval escorts. But still, it's no wonder there were so many who were willing to risk their lives in the "golden age", Pirate Queen.

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Timmy! Exactly. It was like any kind of speculation. If you could just get that one big score... But, people being people, I know a lot of guys who were actually involved in these large prizes ended up penniless. Unfortunately an all too familiar story.