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Notorious captains of the high seas

From the poor son of a fisherman who was captured by pirates, and then became the captain of an entire fleet, to an average man who fended off Somali pirates only 3 years ago – we’ve written about the most infamous captains in recent, and not so recent, history.

If you know of a famous captain worth mentioning, please leave a comment here or on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear your thoughts on who should make the ranks of ‘most notorious sea captain’.

  1. Captain Phillips

Captain Richard Phillips is perhaps one of the most famous captains in modern history, mainly thanks to the 2013 film Captain Philips by Paul Greengrass. In 2009, Somali pirates boarded Phillips’ cargo ship, Alabama, and the crew was taken hostage.

Phillips’ quick thinking is said to have saved the crew. He faked a call to the Navy in order to deter the pirates, and later, encouraged them to board a life vessel and leave the ship with him as hostage. The crew was still on board, and the pirates were later killed by SEALs in a standoff.

This article by Time Magazine offers a good account of what actually happened on the Alabama, versus what was depicted in the film.

  1. Blackbeard

Blackbeard (AKA Edward Teach) is probably one of the most infamous pirate captains in history. But many of his legends were merely stories fabricated after his death. Despite this, the Englishman still managed to do some major damage on the high seas.

Blackbeard captured ships such as the ‘Concorde’, which later became his famous flagship, ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge’. He also captured sloops ‘Adventure’ and ‘Revenge’. Throughout 1718 Blackbeard defeated many British ships in sea battle, but his most famous was the HMS ‘Scarborough’.

At its biggest, Blackbeard’s fleet included 4 ships and around 300 pirates.

  1. Cheung Po Tsai – early 1800s to mid 1800s

Cheung Po was a Chinese fisherman’s son, who later became a successful pirate captain in command of 20,000 men and hundreds of ships. Legend has it that he hid treasure in a cave known as Cheung Po Tsai Cave on Chueng Chau Island.

At 15, Cheung Po was kidnapped from his fishing village by pirate Cheng Yat. When Cheng Yat died accidentally in a storm his wife took over the fleet and Cheung Po became her first mate. The pair married and Cheun Po took over as captain of her fleet.

The film Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End features Cheung Po as one of the main villains. The portrayal was based on both fact and myth.

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