Rock Brasiliano (a.k.a., "Roche Brasiliano") was one of the more successful Dutch pirates in the Caribbean. Little is known of Rock's early life, except that he was born in Groningen, The Netherlands, and at an early age relocated to a Dutch settlement in Brazil. The Portuguese captured the colony sometime in 1650-55, at which point the young man relocated to Jamaica, where he joined the local buccaneers as a common sailor.
A brave man and a fine sailor, Brasiliano was popular with his fellow pirates, where he earned the nickname "Rock of Brasiliano" (his real name has been lost to history). In a short time he was elected captain of his own vessel, a barque stolen from other pirates.
Brasiliano liked to cruise the rich waters off of Campeche, picking off treasure ships sailing from New Spain (Mexico) to Havana or Europe. Between voyages Brasiliano would return to Port Royal, Jamaica to rest, refit and recruit, and he quickly gained a reputation as one of the most dangerous men in that dangerous city. Rock would get roaring drunk and roam the city, waving his cutlass and attacking passers-by as the whim took him. He was equally brutal at sea, where he badly mistreated prisoners - particularly Spanish prisoners - torturing and killing them with or without justification.
At one point Brasiliano was captured and imprisoned in the Campeche dungeons. The city had suffered much pain and hardship at his hands, and the Governor decreed that Brasiliano would hang. But Brasiliano was too clever for him. Somehow acquiring pen and paper, Brasiliano forged a letter, which he got smuggled out of the dungeon and delivered to the Governor of Campeche. The letter purported to come from a group of buccaneers cruising outside of the city; it stated that if the Governor harmed Brasiliano they would have no mercy on the city, its shipping, or its people. As the city had previously almost fallen into buccaneer hands, the Governor took this threat very seriously indeed.
Looking for some way to save face (while keeping his own skin intact), the Governor had Brasiliano brought before him. He told Rock that he would send him back to Spain if he would swear to give up piracy forever: if not, the villain would be hanged immediately. Rock readily gave his solemn oath, and the governor put him on the first ship heading to Europe. Predictably, once in Spain, Brasiliano took passage back to Jamaica, where he quickly resumed his piratical cruises.
Not much else is known of Brasiliano's career - or his end. No one ever reported capturing or killing him; it is possible that, his blood-hatred of Spain slaked, Rock retired to live out his days in anonymity in some quiet corner of the world. It is more likely, however, that his vessel was lost at sea with all hands.
Rackham began his meteoric career in 1717, when he convinced his fellow pirates to depose their captain, Charles Vane, for cowardice and appoint him as their new leader. Within just three short years he would gain notoriety both for his piratical exploits and for his choice of Lieutenants.
Known as "Calico Jack" for his bright clothing, Rackham cut a dashing figure in the pirate havens of the Caribbean. In New Providence, Bahamas, he won the heart of Anne Bonny, a wild and tempestuous young woman who he dressed as a man and smuggled aboard his ship. Soon afterwards he discovered that yet another woman was aboard his ship, one Mary Read, also disguised as a man. By all accounts the two women were as fierce - or fiercer - than any man aboard his ship, and the women became his trusted lieutenants.
Over the next several years Rackham played merry hell among the shipping in the Caribbean. He primarily subsisted on fishing vessels and lightly-armed merchanters, but he'd take on larger and more powerful targets when necessary.
Rackham's piratical career came to an abrupt end in 1720, when an English warship engaged him in a night battle. The two women fought like heroes but most of the male pirates - Rackham included - were dead drunk, and they surrendered without putting up much of a fight.
Put in irons and taken to Jamaica to stand trial, on November 28, 1720, Calico Jack and his crew were found guilty and sentenced to death. "Pleading their bellies," the pregnant Bonny and Read had their sentences commuted until they bore their children, but there was no reprieve for Rackham.
According to legend, as he went to his death the unforgiving Anne Bonny told him, "Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hanged like a dog."
On June 15, 1719, in the English trading station of Anamaboe on the Guinea coast of Africa, pirates under the command of Howell Davis captured a Dutch slaving vessel named the Princess. Several merchant seamen were forced to join the pirates as crew, including the Princess's third mate, Bartholomew Roberts.
Roberts was a fine sailor and natural leader, and when Davis was killed several months later, the men elected him captain. In a very short time Roberts was to prove himself one of the greatest pirates who ever lived.
Somewhat of a dandy, Roberts dressed in a rich crimson damask waistcoat and breeches, wore a red feather in his hat and a large gold cross around his neck. He carried two braces of pistols on a silk sash and a heavy sword at his side. He drank great quantities of tea and disliked alcohol aboard his vessels.
Upon assuming command, Roberts sailed south along the coast of Africa, picking up several prizes. Then he took the ship to Brazil, where they captured the richest prize out of a fleet of 42 merchants awaiting military escorts.
Then the pirates turned north to Newfoundland, where Roberts captured 22 merchants and 150 fishing ships in harbor without firing a shot. He then headed south once again, capturing half a dozen French prizes off the Newfoundland banks and several English ships off of New England.
Roberts then entered the Caribbean. Basing himself off of St. Lucia, he launched upon a campaign of such brilliance and ferocity that he single-handedly brought trade in the Caribbean to a standstill. Among other exploits, he sailed boldly into St. Kitts and ravaged a number of English merchantmen at anchor there. Later on, he seized, burned, or sank fifteen French and English vessels in a three-day period. The local authorities were helpless, and the naval forces in the area refused to challenge him.
By spring of 1721 there was no shipping left in the Caribbean to capture, and Roberts set sail for Africa. The pirates spent several months rampaging up and down the coast, until at last the British 50-gun HMS Swallow found them at anchor.
For a time the pirates mistook the approaching vessel for a merchantman, and it wasn't until the warship was quite near that Roberts realized what he was facing. Roberts did not savor an encounter with the more powerful vessel, and he planned to flee as fast as his sails could bear him. But before he left he wanted to give his attacker one parting shot, perhaps hoping that his fire would damage his enemy's sails or otherwise slow the pursuit, so he gave orders to close with the approaching ship. In the event, the Swallow's cannon-fire proved the more deadly: her first broadside tore Robert's throat out and he died almost immediately.
During his four-year career, Roberts pillaged, captured or sank over 400 ships and took untold millions in treasure. He rampaged across the entire Atlantic, from Brazil in the south to Newfoundland in the north, from the Caribbean in the west to Africa in the east. His death brought profound relief to merchants and naval officers on four continents.