The Pirate Cemetery of Madagascar was the off-season home for an estimated 1,000 pirates

Featured image

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Ile Sainte-Marie (or St. Mary’s Island as it is known in English), a long, thin island off the eastern African coast, became a popular base for pirates.

Up to 1,000 pirates reportedly called the rocky island home, including widely-feared brigands Adam Baldridge, William Kidd, Olivier Levasseur, Henry Every, Robert Culliford, Abraham Samuel and Thomas Tew. They lived in the île aux Forbans, an island located in the bay of Sainte Marie’s main town, Ambodifotatra.

This place was not far from the maritime routes along which ships returning from the East Indies sailed in transit, their holds overflowing with wealth, it was provided with bays and inlets protected from storms and finally, it had abundant fruit and was situated in quiet waters.

For around 100 years, Ile Sainte-Marie was the off-season home of an estimated 1,000 pirates. Source

The beautiful tropical island’s numerous inlets and bays made it the perfect place to hide ships. The pirates sailed mostly from England, Portugal, France and America to make this island off the coast of Madagascar a home, a hideout and a strategic place.

Cyclones and centuries have worn away many of the well-aged engravings on the stone markers. Source

With so many pirates abiding 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.

In the center of the cemetery, there is a large black tomb that locals say is the final resting place of Captain Kidd, buried there in an upright position to punish him for his sins.

There are mostly graves from 1800s but only one with the classic skull and crossed bones. Source

The pirates were off Ile Sainte-Marie by the late 1700s, when the French seized the island. It wasn’t returned to Madagascar until 1960. The utopian pirate republic of Libertalia was also rumored to exist in this area, although the republic’s existence, let alone its location, has never been proven.

Today, 30 headstones remain, though locals say there were once hundreds. Source

A recently discovered map from 1733 by John de Bry, an archaeologist working on shipwrecks in the area, called the land mass the “Island of Pirates” and identified the location of three pirate ship wrecks.

The crumbling cemetery, its graves half covered by tall, swaying grass, is open to the public. Source

So many pirate legends are floating around Sainte-Marie, but, is this cemetery authentic? Everyone on the island, including government tourism officials, of course, claim it is. However, dead pirates or not, this cemetery is one of Madagascar’s most popular tourist destinations.

By David Goran

Shaka Zulu, the man who forged a feared empire out of a tiny tribe in southern Africa

Each continent has had its own significant and feared warriors. For Africa, one name to remember is that of Shaka, the great king and founder of the Zulu Empire in the early decades of the 19th century. Shaka was born and raised in the southeast of what is today South Africa, and during his short but turbulent and violent reign, he brought together hundreds of independent Nguni chiefdoms.

As the story goes, Shaka was born around the year 1787, the son of Senzangakhona, who at that time reigned over the tiny chiefdom known as the Zulu. Shaka’s mother was called Nandi, and at that point, she was not a legal wife to Senzangakhona.

The two were expelled from Senzangakhona’s home and moved to live among the Langeni people. Being an illegitimate child certainly was not an easy thing to go through around the Nguni tribes, and during most of the childhood days, Shaka was bullied everywhere he went.

After spending some time with the Langeni tribe, the mother and the child eventually moved again, this time to live among the Mthethwa people, who were led by Chief Dingiswayo. It would be here that the next great warrior of the Nguni tribes found fulfillment while serving the army under Dingiswayo. Shaka soon mastered various tactics and strategies on the battlefield.

Sketch of King Shaka (1781 - 1828) from 1824. Attributed to James King, it appeared in Nathanial Isaacs’ "Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa", published in 1836.
Sketch of King Shaka (1781 – 1828) from 1824. Attributed to James King, it appeared in Nathanial Isaacs’ “Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa”, published in 1836

Possessing the perfect body of a warrior and a remarkable diplomatic talent as well, he quickly rose in rank, eventually becoming a chief commander, and also someone who was excited by the idea of demonstrating power to others.

As soon as Shaka’s father died sometime around 1816, Dingiswayo helped his young trainee in ousting and murdering his older brothers back in the Zulu village, and that is how Shaka finally became a ruler. At this point, the Zulu people were a really small group, a community of not more than 1,500 in number. But everything started to change under Shaka’s reign.

Sketch of a Zulu warrior
Sketch of a Zulu warrior

Not losing any time in testing his military knowledge in real life, Shaka went after conquering the first and then more of his neighboring tribes. The Langeni, where he spent part of his childhood, were among the invaded people.

Military success came quickly to Shaka as he was outstanding in organizing his army. His regiments were armed with new weapons called assegais. These were a type of short spear but with a long blade, and almost always deadly for the adversary. “Victory or death” he would shout at his warriors to encourage them before carrying out a new campaign.

Shaka's military innovations such as the "iklwa", the age-grade regimental system and encirclement tactics helped make the Zulu one of the most powerful nations in southern and southeastern Africa.Shaka’s military innovations such as the “iklwa”, the age-grade regimental system and encirclement tactics helped make the Zulu one of the most powerful nations in southern and southeastern Africa

Discipline was at the core of Shaka’s method of training the army. No men were allowed to wear sandals for one. The reasons was that everyone got to strengthen their feet by running barefoot. In doing so, the Zulu forces came to be very mobile, and this was one of their best advantages compared with armies of other tribes.

 As time went by, more and more tribes were assimilated under the Zulu. Whoever survived was taken as a Zulu. By the year of 1823, the Zulu were no longer an insignificant  tribe–they now controlled a vast area of 11,500 square miles that spread along the coast of the Indian Ocean. Whoever didn’t want to get assimilated by the Zulu, had to go elsewhere.
Large statue representing Shaka at Camden Market in London, England
Large statue representing Shaka at Camden Market in London, England

Interesting enough, while Shaka acted as a terrible tyrant for the people back home, he was friendly enough with the first white traders who arrived at the port Natal around 1824. The warrior sent delegates to greet the visitors, and he also allowed them to use some of the lands of his kingdom. He was interested in learning more about the newcomers, perhaps obtaining some new technology, although he planned to attack at one point. No such conflict happened during his time in power anyway.

However, things got out of control as soon as his mother, Nandi, passed away in 1827. Initially, he became angry after judging that some people had not expressed sufficient grief at her mourning ceremonies. Shaka rage veered into madness, and he killed hundreds of Zulu. Supposedly, he also ordered all women carrying babies as well as their spouses be put to death.

Such deeds ultimately cemented the way for his inevitable downfall and assassination. In September 1828, Shaka’s own brothers went on to kill him, and one of them became the new king of the Zulu people.

By Stefan A

Conjoined twins survive gruelling journey to separation

Conjoined twins survive gruelling journey to separation

After surgery, the twins were flown back to VangaImage copyrightJACKLYN REIERSON, MAFImage caption The family lives in a remote village in western Democratic Republic of Congo, in Africa

Conjoined twins born in a remote village in the Democratic Republic of Congo have survived a 15-hour journey on the back of a motorbike to be separated.

They were then flown to the capital, Kinshasa, where they were operated on by a team of volunteer surgeons.

View On WordPress

Conjoined twins survive gruelling journey to separation

After surgery, the twins were flown back to VangaImage copyrightJACKLYN REIERSON, MAF
Image caption The family lives in a remote village in western Democratic Republic of Congo, in Africa

Conjoined twins born in a remote village in the Democratic Republic of Congo have survived a 15-hour journey on the back of a motorbike to be separated.

They were then flown to the capital, Kinshasa, where they were operated on by a team of volunteer surgeons.

In total, the one-week-old girls had to endure an 870-mile (1,400km) round trip across jungle, on treacherous roads and by air.

The twins are now being monitored.

The babies – Anick and Destin – will return to their village in three weeks. They were born at 37 weeks in August, were joined at the navel, and did not share any internal organs.

Twins Anick and Destin before they were separatedImage copyrightJACKLYN REIERSON, MAF
Image caption Conjoined twin girls Anick and Destin survived their birth before being separated

About one in every 200,000 live births results in conjoined twins and their survival is never certain, especially in remote areas where no medical help is available.

But to the astonishment of doctors, these twins were born naturally in the village of Muzombo, in the west of the African country.

Realising that the babies needed surgery, their parents Claudine Mukhena and Zaiko Munzadi wrapped the babies in a blanket and set off on an epic journey through jungle to their nearest hospital in Vanga.

Without the equipment or experience to carry out the complex separation surgery in the small hospital, doctors transferred them to a hospital in Kinshasa more than 300 miles away.

The twins and family after being flown back to their regionImage copyrightJACKLYN REIERSON, MAF
Image captionAn emergency plane flew the family to the capital city for surgery

To get there, the family was flown by MAT, a humanitarian airline which operates in remote regions, rather than risk another long journey over dangerous roads.

Dr Junior Mudji, who is now caring for them at Vanga Evangelical Hospital, said he was delighted.

“At 37 weeks, conjoined twins born naturally – it’s unheard of,” he said.

“They are doing fine, they sleep well and eat well. In general, they are doing well.

“We will keep them here for three more weeks to be sure everything is normal.”

Dr Mudji believes the operation was the first to separate conjoined twins in the Democratic Republic of Congo.