Blackbeard's Flagship...er, I mean Medical Ship Found
January 28, 2015 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Medical equipment recovered from wreck of Queen Anne's Revenge Marine archaeologists have found evidence of medical equipment used to heal the sick and wounded on board the pirate captain's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge. posted by Michele in California (24 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is an interesting topic, but as someone who grew up in the area, I cannot stop laughing at the Daily Mail having the town of Havelock, NC labelled "Haverlock."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:55 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


They could have misspelled it worse: Harlock
posted by King Sky Prawn at 12:57 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Medical gin?
posted by odinsdream at 12:58 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


My favorite story about Blackbeard is that one night he invited two crew members, one old and one new, to dinner in his cabin. The two men were eating opposite Blackbeard when with no warning, he pulled his pistols out, aimed them under the table, and blew out the candle. The experienced pirate had seen shit like this before and jumped up on the table. The new pirate, Israel "Basilica" Hands, had no idea what was going on and did nothing. Blackbeard lamed him with one of his pistols.

One of these instruments may have treated Hands's injuries. Small wonder Hands testified against Blackbeard later in life.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:02 PM on January 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


the pirate captain

"Financial activist."
posted by Smart Dalek at 1:14 PM on January 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Pewter syringe to treat syphilis... Nothing like a little lead poisoning to get rid of your STD.
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:22 PM on January 28, 2015


Pewter syringe to treat syphilis... Nothing like a little lead poisoning to get rid of your STD.

Considering that the injection was mercury based, I'd say that the lead was the least of their problems.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:25 PM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


However brutal Blackbeard's reputation, he was still a manager who depended on the labor of his crew to stay in business. Employees who are well taken-care-of will always perform better than those who are not, even if it did involve treating syphlis by injecting Mercury into your urethra.. Small wonder that the QAR people are finding artifacts that support this position. Blackbeard would not have been nearly as successful if he had to depend entirely on slave labor.

(And I don't mean to suggest that Blackbeard might not have been a really awful guy, only that good management of his crew probably served his own self interest.)
posted by dfm500 at 1:27 PM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I know a guy who's working on the excavation. You people have no idea how jealous I am.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:44 PM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is it known that other ships (pirate or otherwise) didn't carry the same sorts of medical supplies? It would seem not so much caring as practical to have such things on-board if you're going to be at-sea for extended periods. Keeping a crew healthy is probably easier than tossing the sick overboard and having to find replacements at the nearest (hopefully friendly) port.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:46 PM on January 28, 2015


Pewter syringe to treat syphilis... Nothing like a little lead poisoning to get rid of your STD.

Considering that the injection was mercury based, I'd say that the lead was the least of their problems.


O' the age of enlightenment, when all the Europeans were brain damaged from heavy metal poisoning and drunk 24/7 (to keep the dysentery away.)
posted by ennui.bz at 1:48 PM on January 28, 2015


Is it known that other ships (pirate or otherwise) didn't carry the same sorts of medical supplies?

I have no idea. I know the article I linked to as the main thing is sensationalizing the find and asking if Blackbeard was a CARING pirate (yes, in all caps in the headline), but that isn't why I posted it as the main link. I posted it as the main link because I looked at several articles and it seemed to be the richest in terms of pictures, a map and so on. I think it is unfortunate that the richest piece is also the most sensationalized in the initial framing.

The reality is that medical care and violent occupations have a long history together. The modern American military offers "free" medical benefits (after you raise your right hand swear to be willing to die for your country) to all of its members and their dependents in part to keep a large medical system functioning and in use in times of peace so it will be ready to go in times of war. The medical system really exists to deal with casualties of war. I have also heard that, for example, some modern surgical techniques were pioneered in the Viet Nam war and/or Korean war because of injuries occurring where the state of the art couldn't help them and they were guaranteed to die if you didn't do something. So they tried stuff and found some things that worked better.

So violence and medicine have a long history together. I posted it because it is interesting medical history, not because I really buy the sensationalization that the first piece goes with for its framing.
posted by Michele in California at 2:03 PM on January 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Considering that the injection was mercury based, I'd say that the lead was the least of their problems.

I'm curious to know how people came up with cures like this back then. I mean it had to be something other than "we should inject mercury to treat syphilis because....it's shiny and fast and neato"
posted by Hoopo at 2:54 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


From everything I've read - that's exactly the reason for the cure.
posted by drewbage1847 at 3:10 PM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't be surprised if Blackbeard simply had the luck to get a recruit who was interested in loot but who happened to have been a medic in some army, a fortunate skill that could be leveraged as mentioned elsewhere to reduce the need for finding new recruits.

The breathless "Was he CARING???" in the headline really grates. It's not like he was Mother Theresa.
posted by localroger at 3:45 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I know a guy who's working on the excavation. You people have no idea how jealous I am.

You've always wanted to meet the Fantastic Four?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:51 PM on January 28, 2015


localroger, here is an excerpt from the second article:
In fact, maintaining the crew's health was so important that when Blackbeard turned the Queen Anne's Revenge into his flagship, he released most of the French crew members he had captured, but he forced the ship's three surgeons to stay, along with a few other specialized workers like carpenters and the cook, Carnes-McNaughton said.

She noted, however, that "The Sea-Man's Vade Mecum" of 1707,which contained the rules that seafarers were supposed to follow, had a provision stating that surgeons could not leave their ship until its voyage was complete.
posted by Michele in California at 3:53 PM on January 28, 2015


some modern surgical techniques were pioneered in the Viet Nam war and/or Korean war

Sure - and this connection goes back much farther than that. For example, WWI saw many men maimed with facial injuries from shell fragments that were deflected by helmets, and that's where reconstructive surgery really got started. A Civil War surgeon could amputate a leg in something like 30 seconds. Probably all the way back to the ancient world, guys getting sliced apart at different angles was of great interest to surgeons. The Iliad has all this gory clinical detail about the specifics of battlefield wounds.
posted by thelonius at 4:39 PM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


in part to keep a large medical system functioning and in use in times of peace so it will be ready to go in times of war. The medical system really exists to deal with casualties of war.

Eh? The VA doesn't do public health or even get activated in emergencies (say, Katrina). But I imagine you could say the military medical system needs to be kept in good functioning order in times of peace.

It is of course correct to note the long history the medical profession has in treating war victims, e.g. Florence Nightingale.

asking if Blackbeard was a CARING pirate

Yeah, it's sort of silly to frame it this way, as if movie depictions of ruthless ("Wounded? Toss 'im o'erboard!") pirates were reality. They were feared, but respected, and had to be responsible with their resources, both ships and crews. I don't know why anyone who thought about it longer than a moment wouldn't realize this.

Oh. It's the Daily Mail. No more questions....
posted by dhartung at 6:54 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


My favorite story about Blackbeard is that one night he invited two crew members, one old and one new, to dinner in his cabin. The two men were eating opposite Blackbeard when with no warning, he pulled his pistols out, aimed them under the table, and blew out the candle. The experienced pirate had seen shit like this before and jumped up on the table. The new pirate, Israel "Basilica" Hands, had no idea what was going on and did nothing. Blackbeard lamed him with one of his pistols.

For some reason I really thought you were setting up a pirate joke here. I had to go back through and read it again because I was sure I wasn't understanding the punchline the first time around.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:29 PM on January 28, 2015


Getting my sciencey news from the Daily Mail seems... odd.
posted by cosmologinaut at 10:04 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've heard that the reason that pirates are shown pirating with missing limbs, is because the merchant marines would just put a wounded sailor off on the nearest piece of land, and conscript a new one. Sailing was dangerous, and people got hurt all the time. It was harder to replace a pirate, so they kept them on and repaired them.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:34 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Eh? The VA doesn't do public health or even get activated in emergencies (say, Katrina).

I honestly have zero idea how you could interpret my comment about medical benefits for soldiers and their families to in any way imply that the military medical system does public health stuff or should.

If I was in any way unclear, let me try again: The military medical system exists to serve the needs of the military. That need is obviously highest during times of war, when we have casualties. In peace time, it has excess capacity that needs to be kept in use so the system works properly when it is most needed. One way they keep it in use is by giving "free" medical care to spouse's and children of military members.

But any time there is a crisis, you can rest assured that the actual active duty members take priority. If, for example, there aren't enough vaccines of some sort one year, active duty and a short list of high risk dependents get priority over most dependents and retirees. I also know that they sometimes hire civilian doctors to provide, for example, OB care for pregnant spouse's. But they keep doctors on staff and in uniform because medical care is a necessity in time of war and owning the means for that care is a national security issue. You don't want to wonder about the loyalties or political views of the doctors and nurses treating your soldiers during a war.

Using the military medical system that way does triple duty: It also helps keep soldiers focused on the task at hand and feeling comfortable that their loved ones back home are being taken care of while they are away on duty. It also helps people raise their hand and swear to give their lives in service to their country. It would be nigh impossible to keep personnel in a volunteer military if they didn't feel confident that they would be taken care of medically and financially should they come back from war maimed and their loved ones will be taken care of medically and financially should they give the ultimate sacrifice and come back in a coffin.
posted by Michele in California at 9:51 AM on January 29, 2015


Getting my sciencey news from the Daily Mail seems... odd.

It often has interesting archival pieces, comprehensively illustrated. It's the one aspect of the paper where the usual sexism and/or jingoism aren't usually offensive.

Michele, I always enjoy the way you often have such a fresh perspective on familiar things, as your comments show.
posted by glasseyes at 3:37 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


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