Ten Things You May Not Know About the Black Pearl
1. Let’s start with an age-old trivia question regarding the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, namely, what is the name of the pirate ship? For years, the answer has been the Wicked Wench. But (you may protest), now that Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa have become part of the attraction, wouldn’t that make the ship the Black Pearl? Well, yes and no. Let’s look at both sides:
2. It’s the Black Pearl! In the world that exists in the films, the original name of the Black Pearl was the Wicked Wench, captained by Jack Sparrow. At the time, Sparrow was in the employ of Lord Beckett, with the ship being owned by the East India Trading Co. Sparrow crossed Beckett and as punishment, Beckett had Sparrow branded with a “P” and made him watch as he destroyed the ship. Sparrow tried to save the ship, but instead was dragged down to the ocean’s depths to his supposed death, along with the charred remains of his ship. It was there that he struck a deal with Davy Jones for 13 years of captaincy aboard his vessel in return for 100 years of servitude aboard the Flying Dutchman. Unfortunately, a mutiny followed a couple of years later, which saw the Black Pearl fall under the command of Barbossa. Ergo, the ship we see in the attraction, helmed by Barbossa, must be the Black Pearl.
3. It’s the Wicked Wench! All of the above notwithstanding, for the longest time the boat was still officially referred to as the Wicked Wench in the Disney attraction. Why? The reasons are a bit cloudy, but had to do with licensing and other legal maneuvering. But that really is Jack Sparrow lurking in the background…
4. So why (in the films) was it called the Black Pearl anyway? When he reacquired the ship from Davy Jones, Sparrow opted for the new name, drawing inspiration from the Biblical parable of “the pearl of great price” (referring to the ultimate attainment of something of great value). The word “black” was added in reference to the charred remains of the hull, an effect Sparrow liked so much that he painted the remainder of the ship black to match. This included not only the hull but the sails and the rigging too.
5. OK, having a black ship is cool and all, but what real purpose did it serve? As it turned out, the dark coloring gave the Black Pearl a great tactical advantage as it could travel virtually unseen in night waters, and also allowed it to stealthily approach its target in the cover of darkness.
6. The Black Pearl is the fastest ship in the Caribbean, and that, combined with its dark coloring, make it a formidable opponent. It’s a good thing that the Pearl has speed and stealth on its side for it has an unfortunate armament deficiency; it has no cannons fore and aft, and thus can only attack (or defend) ships that are along side of it.
7. Don’t feel too badly. The Pearl carries 32 thirty-two-pound cannons, with 18 on the gun deck and 14 on the upper deck.
8. The first time we see Jack Sparrow (in The Curse of The Black Pearl), he isn’t captaining the Pearl, but rather the Jolly Mon from Anamaria, a boat that Jack “borrowed without permission”.
9. Four separate Black Pearls were built for the first four films. In the original film, the ship was basically a set on a barge, with another ship built on a sound-stage for better control over the fog machines. For the next two films, the production team built the Black Pearl around an existing 109-foot-long ship named Sunset, which was docked in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. The Sunset would be used again for On Stranger Tides, where it portrayed the Queen Anne’s Revenge.
10. There was once a real ship named the Black Pearl. It was captained by Sir Henry Morgan but sank in a battle. The fictional ship hasn’t fared much better, having been sunk at least three times. But, like Jack Sparrow, the Black Pearl is notorious for being nearly impossible to destroy.