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  • [mast creaks] [Euron yells]

  • You just made yourself a target, right?

  • There's one guy there.

  • It's relatively easy to defend against.

  • Just shoot him.

  • Hi, my name is Evan Wilson.

  • I'm a professor at the US Naval War College,

  • and I'm an expert in 18th-century naval warfare.

  • Today I'll be looking at naval warfare scenes in movies

  • and judging how real they are.

  • So, if you're desperate

  • and you're being chased by someone

  • who you know is stronger than you,

  • you would throw things overboard

  • if you're trying to speed up.

  • But the thing that's really going to lighten the ship

  • is throwing the guns overboard.

  • I mean, that's the fastest way to lighten it.

  • A 32-pound cannon or something like that

  • weighs 7,000 pounds.

  • What they're throwing overboard is like --

  • a single cannonball isn't going to make

  • any difference in the speed of your ship.

  • This is a maneuver that's called club hauling.

  • You drop an anchor off the side

  • in an attempt to rapidly turn the ship

  • in another direction.

  • It did happen, but you did it in an emergency,

  • when you were trying to extricate your ship

  • from a very dangerous situation,

  • rather than as a tactic in battle usually.

  • You could surprise the Black Pearl,

  • but it's going to take many minutes

  • for this maneuver to happen.

  • I mean, it is a surprise, 'cause it's really dumb.

  • So, that's chain shot.

  • That's a real thing.

  • It's either an antipersonnel thing,

  • 'cause it's going to spin,

  • or you fire it at the rigging

  • in the hopes of cutting ropes as it spins through.

  • I'd be surprised if you had a one-shot thing

  • that brings the mast down like that.

  • A good naval gun crew that's got a lot of men on it

  • can load and fire a cannon in a minute,

  • but you probably couldn't sustain that for very long.

  • It looks like there are, like, eight people on this ship,

  • like I said, so, you know, they could fire one gun.

  • But not all of them. You need a lot of men.

  • It's a great way to make yourself a target.

  • Probably much more likely to end up in between the ships,

  • which is a great way to get crushed to death.

  • It's very cinematic, it's very evocative,

  • and it looks like sort of a Tarzan-esque thing, I get that,

  • but you're asking for trouble.

  • And I think when people are firing at you,

  • doing that is not smart.

  • One of the things you don't see here

  • is that it's actually really hard

  • to keep two ships right next to each other.

  • We saw these ships moving in opposite directions.

  • Something would have needed to have happened

  • to keep them near each other.

  • Right now this is just, very conveniently,

  • I guess they've anchored next to each other

  • so that they can duke it out.

  • Like, in the "Pirates" universe, this is a 10 out of 10.

  • It's about as accurate as they ever get.

  • In reality, it's like a,

  • I don't know, 4 out of 10.

  • French officer: This is your last warning! Stop now!

  • They showed a couple shots there

  • of the crowded deck of what we know is a British frigate.

  • That's much more accurate.

  • I mean, these ships are going to be crawling with men.

  • Jack: Fire! [cannons boom]

  • So, that's a pretty risky strategy,

  • to try to knock down the mainmast of the enemy ship,

  • because masts are hard to hit.

  • But firing into the rigging was a real tactic,

  • because the masts are held up by the rigging.

  • So the reason you'd want to knock the enemy mast down

  • is to disable his ship.

  • And then he couldn't chase you anymore,

  • and then you could just leave.

  • Often the British practiced firing hard and low

  • into enemy hulls, into the enemy ship,

  • with the idea of killing men.

  • Not to sink the ship.

  • It's really hard to sink a wooden ship. Wood floats.

  • Instead, what you're doing is

  • you're trying to kill the crew.

  • The knock-on effect of that is that

  • you can either board them and take them,

  • or they'll be so disabled and so damaged

  • that they will surrender to you

  • and then you can go take possession.

  • Officer: Put out the boarding plank!

  • Those are ropes that they're throwing over

  • to try to get the ships to stay together,

  • to solve that problem of the ships moving apart.

  • It's really hard to get two ships

  • to actually get close enough together to board.

  • Ships have something called a tumblehome.

  • The hull is shaped so that

  • the sides aren't straight up and down.

  • The sides actually turn in a little bit.

  • Which means that when two ships are next to each other,

  • they both have tumblehomes that are going this way,

  • which means that to cross from one deck to the other

  • is actually a long way.

  • The challenge of actually getting two ships

  • next to each other to board them is real.

  • They do a good job in this movie

  • of showing you that there are different ways

  • that you can go about doing it.

  • I mean, they got almost everything right.

  • This is a 10 out of 10.

  • [Euron yells] [cables creak]

  • [bowsprit thuds]

  • That's supposed to be sort of the bowsprit.

  • That's the mast that sticks out the front of the ship.

  • That's really essential

  • to hold up most of the rigging of a ship.

  • If you were to put elaborate metal claws on the front of it,

  • you'd, first of all,

  • probably not be able to sail the ship very well;

  • secondly, it'd be very heavy on the front of your ship

  • and cause your ship to go like this.

  • You can run your ship into the other ship

  • and then board it from there.

  • But you do that by just clambering over your own bowsprit.

  • You don't do it by staging an elaborate entrance in which,

  • once again, just like with the Tarzan rope thing,

  • you just made yourself a target, right?

  • I mean, they stand there shocked that it's Euron,

  • but, like, just shoot him.

  • Flaming arrows?

  • I would say no, that's not something that would work.

  • Mainly because to make a flaming arrow work,

  • you probably have to light it on your own ship,

  • and fire is by far the biggest threat to ships.

  • Wood, canvas, pitch, tar, this stuff is really flammable.

  • Firing flaming arrows at someone else's ship

  • is much more likely to set your own ship on fire

  • than to set the other guy's ship on fire.

  • The fact that they correctly identify

  • that one of the greatest fears for a fleet would be fire

  • and that would be the thing that would make Euron scary

  • I think is accurate.

  • The two ships are about to be on fire.

  • That would be very bad.

  • That would be catastrophic.

  • You would be much more concerned about the fire

  • than about whatever the enemy's doing.

  • Would you keep fighting in a storm?

  • The answer is, it would affect tactics,

  • but it wouldn't necessarily keep you from fighting.

  • There's a famous example of two British frigates

  • chasing a much larger French ship in 1797.

  • And normally, if the weather had been calm,

  • the two frigates probably would have run away

  • from the bigger French ship.

  • But because of the storm was so bad,

  • the French ship couldn't open its lower gunports,

  • because the water would've come in too low, right?

  • So the French ship was basically

  • half as powerful as it would've been.

  • I don't feel like I need to explain that,

  • but I can, if you want.

  • What's the name of the carnival ride?

  • That's what -- they clearly saw that at a carnival

  • and they were like, "Let's make that happen."

  • The guy swings like Tarzan, comes around,

  • fires a gun, and then gets shot in the face.

  • Because of course he would.

  • 'Cause you see a guy swinging, and you're like,

  • "I'm gonna shoot you now."

  • Boarding is risky, right?

  • When you board another ship,

  • you need to be pretty confident

  • that you are superior to the enemy that you're boarding.

  • Because if you board an enemy ship and it goes poorly,

  • then you might lose your own ship.

  • Whereas if you hadn't bothered

  • to board them in the first place,

  • you probably wouldn't get captured.

  • And you'd be much more likely

  • to just obliterate them at a distance,

  • and then once they surrender, take over the ship and say,

  • "Well, that was better."

  • A lot of movies have boarding in them

  • because it's very cinematic

  • and it's a lot more interesting than watching two ships

  • just fire at each other for a long time.

  • That's a 1.

  • War at sea is not a carnival ride.

  • That's just ...

  • Look at the way that the wind

  • is blowing the sails of the British ship from behind

  • and the sails of the other ship from that direction.

  • I mean, that's a really good illustration of,

  • the wind doesn't work like that.

  • The wind has been disengaged from this scene

  • so that these ships can turn however they like.

  • A lot of the times in the age of sail clips

  • that we've been seeing,

  • they're turning the ship's wheel kind of like

  • you're just sort of spinning it,

  • like, "Ah, just gonna throw it this way and spin it."

  • Usually it took two guys.

  • It would take two people there to really work the wheel.

  • 'Cause you're turning a really large piece of wood in water.

  • So you turn the wheel, and that that moves ropes

  • that are connected to the tiller

  • that are connected to the rudder,

  • and the rudder does steer the ship.

  • So you do need to spin the wheel,

  • but often these ships are turning on a dime

  • with nothing happening in the sails,

  • and you're expected to believe that that's how it worked.

  • So, you would turn the wheel to do that,

  • but you'd also do 1,000 other things,

  • and the wind would have to be just right,

  • in the right place, and it would take a while.

  • These ships are passing each other very quickly.

  • I mean, the combined speed there is, like, I don't know,

  • 15 miles an hour.

  • The number of seconds you'd probably have

  • in which the enemy ship

  • was in just the right position to fire on it

  • would be very few.

  • And so you'd end up with them just,

  • you know, you'd do a little bit of damage,

  • and then the ship would just sail on.

  • You could double up on an enemy ship like that,

  • and there are famous examples of it.

  • At the Battle of the Nile in 1798,

  • the British do this to the French.

  • It's a great way to do a lot of damage,

  • 'cause it forces the enemy to fire on both sides,

  • to figure out which way to concentrate.

  • They do a good job actually here of showing the splinters.

  • And the one realistic thing about this clip is that

  • the air gets filled with splinters,

  • and splinters were the real danger.

  • That was what hurt you.

  • You're very unlikely to be hit by an actual cannonball.

  • It happened, of course,

  • but the splinters are the thing here.

  • Like, these things are coming at bullet speeds.

  • There are famous examples of ships exploding.

  • They're rare, but certainly they did happen.

  • The magazine is where you store the powder.