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Nova Scotia's Pirate History

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Did you know that Nova Scotia was once a part of an era known as the “Golden Age of Piracy”? There was a time, more than 300 years ago, when pirates were a common menace on Nova Scotia’s Atlantic waters, pillaging and plundering to their hearts’ content. This was around 1690 until 1730. Some even say that the pirates who terrorized ships around Halifax left buried treasure in the area. (Sadly, we don’t have a map for that!)

As you can probably guess, pirates weren’t exactly welcomed around these parts. They would take over ships by force, stealing their valuables and making the rightful captain and crew “walk the plank”, never to be heard from again.

Piracy was illegal, and when pirates were caught their punishment was death! Pretty harsh. Because this was the law at the time, many of the sites around Halifax associated with pirate history are places where pirates were caught or punished. So be warned, these stories are a little spooky.

Georges Island

Georges Island is the largest island entirely within the limits of Halifax Harbour, and its history is pretty cool. It was first outfitted with cannons in 1750 to help protect Halifax from sea attacks, and was
even used as a prison for a while!

Two pirates were caught and hanged on Georges Island in 1784, and legend has it that these pirates continue to haunt the island to this day. Georges Island later became home to a proper military fort (Fort Charlotte) and these days, the island is a National Historic Site that you can visit and tour. There are cool underground tunnels and trails to explore. You can get to Georges Island by ferry from the Halifax waterfront, or by private boat, canoe, or kayak!

Point Pleasant Park

A man named Edward Jordan was put on trial for piracy in Halifax in 1809. He was accused and found
guilty of stealing a ship called the Three Sisters. He was hanged at Point Pleasant Park, near Black Rock Beach.

Today, Point Pleasant Park is a big, beautiful park located right on the ocean with plenty of trees and places to picnic. You can visit (and swim at!) Black Rock Beach. The park has many other historic sites and buildings, including the oldest Martello tower in North America.

Martello towers are small defensive forts that were built by the British in the 1800s.

Bedford Basin

Legend has it that Navy Island in the Bedford Basin is home to an entire crew of pirate ghosts who stand guard over a legendary long-lost treasure! This treasure has never been found…

Eastern Shore

Nova Scotia’s last major piracy trial happened in 1844 – less than 200 years ago! Six pirates were brought to Halifax to stand trial after they were shipwrecked on the Eastern Shore. Their ship, the finely decorated Saladin, was carrying a cargo of silver bars and coins, and the crew had formed a mutiny. They were fighting over the treasure when they crashed into the Eastern Shore.

You can find plenty of facts about the Golden Age of Pirates here in Nova Scotia at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic on the Halifax waterfront. And who knows? Maybe you’ll find some clues to start your search for some of that hidden pirate treasure!