The World’s Only Pirate Cemetery

by M-Berens

Ile Sainte-Marie, Madagascar is believed to be home to the world's only pirate cemetery.

Actor Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow romanticized the lives of pirates in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies but in real life, many of these pirates were bloodthirsty tyrants and murderers and some of the most successful criminals in history.

Ile Sainte-Marie, a small island off the coast of Madagascar was once home to more than 1,000 pirates from 1688-1721 and is believed to have the world’s only pirate cemetery. The pirates sailed mostly from England, Portugal, France and America to make this island off the coast of Madagascar a home, a hideout and a strategic place to ply their trade on the open seas and divvy up the spoils of successful raids. Some were privateers who turned pirate others chose that way of life because as Apple founder Steve Jobs once said, “It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.”

Ile Sainte-Marie was home to many famous pirates including Captain William Kidd, a Scottish pirate who, when finally caught, was executed for plying his trade. Robert Culliford who was an English pirate once sailed with William Kidd before leading a mutiny against him. Culliford realized much wealth as a pirate at one time plundering over $200,000 cash after capturing a ship off the coast of Ile Sainte-Marie. Others including Olivier Levasseur, Henry Every, Abraham Samuel and Thomas Tew lived and raised families on the island. There are even pirate ships that lie only a few meters under the waters in the bay.

The Pirates’ Cemetery is situated on a point with the Indian Ocean’s waters visible through the palms and overgrown grass. About thirty once elaborate tombstones remain, though locals say there were once hundreds. The island has experienced regular cylones and with its rainforest climate the stones deteriorated over the centuries. There is a large black tomb in the center of the cemetery that locals say is the final resting place of Captain Kidd, buried there in an upright position to punish him for his crimes. However that tale was made up to boost the tourist trade in the area. Captain Kidd was captured after burying his treasure on Gardiners Island, New York before being taken to England in chains where he was hanged.

Though many of the names on the tombstones at the Pirates’ Cemetery are no longer legible the skulls, crossbones and swords etched into the rock still remain along with messages from the pirates asking their fellow countrymen to “pray for them”.



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