History of Pirates in St. Thomas Island
The Caribbean is an area with a rich and often tumultuous history. St. Thomas Island is no exception to this. Piracy was highly prevalent in both the U.S. and the British Virgin Islands during the “Golden Age of Piracy” between 1690 and 1730. While pirates have left only an elusive mark on the island, it was a key site for ships to hide from the wandering eyes of the government ships, such as the Royal Navy.
While the exact history of pirates on St. Thomas is hard to place, due to the nature of piracy as an outlaw entity, some of the remaining architecture is still visible. What better way to see these sights and imagine the wonder of discovery than by renting a boat.
In the early 1600s, the seas surrounding St. Thomas were visited regularly by the Spanish and English ships. Towards the end of that century, the Dutch and French were a huge presence, as well, and often fought over the island territories. It was in this environment that piracy (and its close-cousin, privateering) grew.
By the 1670s, the island had been commandeered and populated with forts to protect themselves against the rival pirates and privateers. The Dutch arrived in the area around that time and found it a dangerous and active hub for piracy. The new Dutch settlers in the area traded with these pirates, much to the chagrin of the governors that were put to trial for it.
Many pirates and privateers operated on the island, and the exact list is too long to know. However, some of the key figures that had their presence there were Captain Kidd, Black Sam Bellamy, and Edward “Blackbeard” Teach.
The island’s geography made it the perfect strategic location for these pirates. The number of small islands and keys nearby made it easy to stage ambushes and assaults then escape with the plunder of trade routes.
Some such inhabitants were frequent enough visitors to have left their presence. However, archaeological digs are still underway in the area.
The most notable standing landmark to piracy in St. Thomas is Blackbeard’s Castle. It’s a little bit dubious to name it that, as the actual tower was originally constructed by the Dutch settlers in 1679. They called it the Skytsborg Tower, which meant “gun tower.” It’s unclear whether Edward “Blackbeard” Teach inhabited the tower, though it is widely believed that he had a large presence in the area.
East of Charlotte Amalie is Bluebeard’s Castle, which has had a resort constructed around it. It’s a stone watchtower at the center of the resort that is visible across the resort area. Bluebeard, whose real name was Eduard de Barbe-Bleue, reportedly constructed the watchtower to keep a close eye on approaching pirates.
However, legend has it that he also used the watchtower as a prison for his love, a young woman named Mercedes. This backfired on Bluebeard, though, since she took revenge upon escaping by leading his rivals to the tower and giving them the gold he kept there.
The resort is currently undergoing a rebuild and renovation after the hurricane damage it sustained in 2019.
In the center of the island, to the north is Drake’s Seat, which is named for Sir Francis Drake, the famed English privateer whose name is also given to the strait separating the U.S. and the British Virgin Islands. It’s a popular scenic overlook and is visible from the Magens Bay and Ensomhed Bay, looking south from the north.
This overlook is reportedly where Francis Drake sat to keep lookout for ships approaching. There’s a wooden bench at the top of the hill, though don’t believe Drake actually sat on it. There’s some dispute over whether Drake stood at the site, but he did visit the island during his expeditions.
Knowing the pirate history of the island adds a bit of adventure to sailing the island. Looking out over the lands, it’s easy to imagine their history and what they saw. In the downtown area of Charlotte Amalie, near the Royal Dane Mall, a series of plaques providing extra historical context are placed throughout the alleyways. The islands have a rich history that provides a unique context of experience.
An original article posted by Sonic Charters.