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The starboard toilet on the beakhead of the warship Vasa, displayed in the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. (Peter Isotalo / CC by SA 3.0)

Toilets on a Pirate Ship and the Sorry Guy Who Cleaned Them... (Video)

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Sanitation aboard a pirate ship was far from ideal. Bathing was a rarity, and clean clothes were scarce, often stolen from other ships. Hot baths were a luxury reserved for the sick, usually onshore. The ship's toilet was known as "the head," a simple wooden box with holes at the ship's front. Pirates used a communal swab on a rope as toilet paper, hoping the ocean would clean it. Smaller ships lacked a designated head, so sailors used the "chains," platforms extending from the ship's side, or primitive urinals called "pissdales." Cleaning these facilities was an unpleasant task, often assigned to someone called "The Liar."

Pirates did care for their sick crew members, quarantining them and providing special food and treatments. During storms, the bilge, the filthiest part of the ship, sometimes served as an unintended restroom, with its overpowering stench. Pirates also targeted slave ships, sometimes sailing as far as Africa to capture them. The slaves endured unimaginable conditions during their journey. In essence, the life of a pirate was far from luxurious, particularly concerning hygiene and sanitation. Their basic toilet facilities and the challenges of maintaining cleanliness presented a stark contrast to the romanticized image of pirates.

Top image: The starboard toilet on the beakhead of the warship Vasa, displayed in the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. (Peter Isotalo / CC by SA 3.0)

By Robbie Mitchell

 
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Robbie

I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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