Pirates, Plunder and Bushrangers Bay

This lucky country doesn’t know what it’s like to live in constant terror! But in other eras few large towns were built near the vulnerable coast for fear of murderous, ravaging, brutalised pirates. Every old coastal town had its nest of armoury and fortifications ready to defend against marauding pirates and raiders.

The forts of Port Phillip’s Point Nepean and Sydney’s North Head are fine Victorian era samples. Earlier, the Vikings were but one of a veritable horde who through the ages have raped, pillaged and destroyed whenever driven by desperate or greedy circumstance! The Vikings pitilessly raided the English, Irish and Mediterranean coastlines in search of women and plunder.

Dragut Reis raided Malta and Gozo

But a reversion to piracy has relentlessly travelled down the ages whenever opportunities presented themselves! In the aftermath of the ancient Trojan war, the “father of history” Herodotus tells how Dionysius escaped to Sicily in the 5th century BC and became an invading pirate. The wandering “Peoples of the sea” famously ransacked the Egypt of Ramses II! Two thousand years later in 1551, Dragut Reis raided Malta and Gozo, taking the 5,000 inhabitants of these neighbouring islands, away into slavery.

In more recent times Sir Francis Drake, whilst allegedly serving Queen Elizabeth I, infamously sacked and looted Spanish towns in South America of their gold. A colluding Queen, desperate for money, amply rewarded him. In the 19th and 20th Century Indonesia’s Malacca straights has supported untold Arab Dhows in search of plunder from merchant shipping! And need we mentioned the brisk slave smuggling trade only stamped out by a powerful, aggressive and ruthless Royal Navy.

Victoria’s “Bush Rangers bay”, on Cape Schanck, was for a time the haven of just such a nest of minor pirates. Where there is a vacuum of power and tenacity on the part of governments surely piracy will flourish? Beware the coming new age of piracy!

In times of famine, drought and warfare, desperate people from ruined countries turn to piracy but only when a strong counterforce lacks the will to control them. I believe we are entering just such a time! The sea pirates of Somalia are only the beginning of a revival of powerfully equipped and brutalized men willing to risk all for large gains.

pirates australia malta

My father, an ex POW, once mentioned how he never realised starvation could turn peoples moral scruples upside down. Desperate men turn to piracy! Impossible you say in this era of protective superpowers. But is a sea change occurring? In our world superpowers are deteriorating. Powerful weapons, boats and reconnaissance planes are available to ruthless crime syndicates. The people smugglers are cleverly learning if a nation lacks the resolve to protect its sea lanes and borders then perhaps it is vulnerable to other opportunistic attacks. Like sly foxes they wait their moment to run in and seize an unprotected prey!

Our Australian defence forces, particularly our navy, has become pathetic in its equipment capabilities and resolve in recent years. Neglectful politicians have left a large proportion of our warships awaiting repair in slumbering dockyards. As the awesome power of America and it’s protective umbrella subsides opportunities for well equipped piracy suddenly become tempting.

Are we living in a fools paradise? Are we travelling back to a terrifying past of world chaos?

Peter Mungo Jupp

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