ByTommy DePaoli, writer at
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Tommy DePaoli

Blackbeard's ancient medical equipment has just been unearthed, and the infamously dangerous pirate had some terrifying tendencies when it came to invasive procedures at sea.

Archaeologists discovered Blackbeard's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, in 1996 and have been excavating it ever since. Apparently, after Blackbeard captured the ship, he forced the three surgeons to stay as part of his crew. Using the newly discovered medical artifacts and historical records, these researchers have been able to piece together a bloody and unsanitized picture of what a check-up is like when Blackbeard is in control.

For reference, this is about the extent of the medical maladies that happens in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Unfortunately for Blackbeard's crew, they didn't enjoy the comforts of immortality. So, when they had a malady, they turned to the doctors who didn't even want to be there in the first place.

Typical tools included rusty surgical needles, rectum-pumpers, and six-inch urethral syringes. If you're not cringing from reading the phrase "urethral syringe," just wait until you see the picture.

Let's diagnose the kinds of grisly instruments that probably terrified some of the scariest men to ever roam the seas.

Silver Needle

North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources
North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources

A seemingly unassuming needle for sewing a nice, new swashbuckling shirt, you say? Just your average, everyday, teeny tiny needle that is just looking for home to make crafts and baubles and trinkets for good boys and girls, right?

Except that this needle is OVER SIX INCHES LONG and looks thick enough to be an effective shiv. Plus, researchers think this was used in highly invasive surgeries.

Just to put this into a bit of historical context, they also found evidence of bloodletting aboard Blackbeard's ship. This means that the guy performing your surgery with a six-inch needle still thinks that you can be cured by simply withdrawing massive amounts of your blood.

Clyster Pump

North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources
North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources

I hope you guys haven't eaten yet today because this one is rough. The clyster pump is essentially an old-fashioned enema, used to pump fluid into the rectum, allowing absorption to occur more quickly.

Brace yourself for this: researchers don't know exactly what this procedure would be used to cure, but they plan on running tests to find out what pumps contain. I can't say I want to know the answer to that one...

With the amount of mystery around this, I can't help but think this had some insidious purposes. Can you imagine a dirty, bacteria-ridden device coming anywhere near that part of your body by a doctor who doesn't even want to be there? Sounds like actual torture.

Urethral Syringe

North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources
North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources

As if the sound of "urethral syringe" weren't enough to make everyone cross their legs in agony, now we have a picture of the gigantic metal item. Adding insult to injury, the syringe was used to treat syphilis. So not only did you have a painful, life-threatening STD, but now you need a painful metal hook jabbed inside of you to flush out fluid build up. Oh, and because this is the 18th century, you don't get anesthesia of any kind, and this thing is going right near your most vulnerable area. Ouch.

Perhaps the worst part of all (but nonetheless historically accurate) is that the syringe contained traces of mercury. After repeated uses, this would cause mercury poisoning, which could lead to burning nerves, swelling, skin shedding, and ultimately death. All while you're on a crowded ship surrounded by some of the most ruthless men in history.

Judging from what I know about pirates, something tells me the doctor wasn't too gentle went it came to administering this. I can almost hear the screams of agony just from being approached by this.

Well, at least there's one thing I've gotten out of researching this.

Since archeologists continue to dig into the Queen Anne's Revenge for new discoveries, I'm sure these aren't the only terrifying discoveries they will unearth.

What else could be lurking in Blackbeard's ship, and will it be any worse than this?


Would you still want to be onboard Blackbeard's legendary ship?


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