Tuesday, February 26, 2013


A gravestone marked with a skull and crossbones at what may be the world's only legit pirate cemetery.

Kip walks the plank en route to the cemetery.
When it comes to pirate lore, few places can equal the tales told of the infamous St. Mary's Island (or Ile Sainte-Marie, as it's known locally). 

In the 17th and 18th centuries up to 1,000 pirates reportedly called the island home, including famous brigands William Kidd and Thomas Tew, to name two. Thanks to safe and secluded bays and its location on the trade route frequented by treasure-laden ships returning home from the East Indies, Sainte-Marie provided the perfect spot for shifty sailors looking for booty and a friendly place to live with like-minded looters. 

With so many pirates living on the island, some even raising families at the time, it's no wonder Sainte-Marie claims to have what may be the world's only legitimate pirate cemetery. No way we were leaving there without a visit (or two).
The sign marking the dirt trail to Sainte-Marie's pirate cemetery.

Atop a verdant hill overlooking a deep inlet once used by the pirates who supposedly still rest here, we walked among crumbling headstones and towering sailor palms. Much of the engravings on the stone markers has long since faded away. But on one grave, among wrought iron crosses and knee-high grass there remains the clear outline of an almost childlike carving of a skull and cross bones. 

Is it authentic? Everyone here naturally claims it is. And with so many pirate legends floating around Sainte-Marie, it's easy to believe so.

For us, it didn't really matter. Sipping a locally-made rum we'd plundered (purchased) from a store back in town, we sat alone among the centuries-old headstones as the sun set and we imagined what life must have been like way back then. Dead pirates or not, the cemetery's a place you can't miss next time you're in Madagascar. 

Gravestones and sailor palms at Ile Sainte-Marie's pirate cemetery.
View from the cemetery. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I'm a physics student in Mrs. Paula Calender's class. I admire the way you are traveling the world and have always wanted to do so myself. The world can be a wonderous place to see and one can never see it all. I intend to see as much as I can and it's good to know there are people already doing so.


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