In Robert Louis Stevenson’s (1850-1894) Treasure Island 15 men sat on the dead man’s chest. Did you ever wonder why? In the early 1700s, the pirate Edward Teach – alias Blackbeard – punished a mutinous crew by marooning them on Dead Man’s Chest, an eerie and infamous island surrounded by high cliffs. Each man was given a cutlass and a bottle of rum, and Blackbeard’s hope was that they would kill each other. When he returned at the end of 30 days he found that 15 men had survived.
Dead Chest is little more than a large rock outcropping located just under one half mile north east of Deadman’s Bay on Peter Island, British Virgin Islands. It is uninhabited, has no fresh water and only sparse vegetation. The island is occupied by lizards, pelicans, and mosquitoes.
“Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.
Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.
The mate was fixed by the bosun’s pike
The bosun brained with a marlinspike
And cookey’s throat was marked belike
It had been gripped by fingers ten;
And there they lay, all good dead men
Like break o’day in a boozing ken
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.”
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