Question: Why did pirates wear eye-patches?
Answer: Duh. Because they had lost an eye. They wore the patch to keep dirt out of the socket, a place that was difficult to take care of.
But, now there’s a shadow of controversy about this seemingly straightforward answer. If you Google the same question, you’ll find that someone is floating a different theory.
According to this new theory, pirates wore eye-patches to help them see in the dark. It sounds outlandish, but makes a degree of sense.
If you run out of the bright sunshine into a darkened room, you’re going to find it hard to see for a few seconds until your eyes adjust to the change in light. If you cover one eye, however, when you’re in the bright sunshine, that covered eye will be ready for the darker room.
Here’s the scene:
The pirate Williwaw has run alongside the merchant ship Brother Jonathon. Cannons aren’t roaring now, because Williwaw‘s men are swarming over the railings to fight Brother Jonathon’s crew. Crazy Ned Ganders, fake eye-patch in place, dashes across Jonathon‘s main deck and ducks towards the aft cabin, cutlass in one hand and pistol in the other.
“Wait,” he mutters, “it be a trifle darker here in the t’ween decks.” He carefully stuffs his pistol into his belt, and then raises his eye-patch. “There,” he sighs, “that’d be better, wood’n it? Now I can see much more efficiently. Arrgh.” He pulls out his pistol and proceeds towards the aft cabin.
Somehow, I’m just not seeing it. A battle between ship’s crews was pitched, hot, and incredibly fast. Until the merchant crew was subdued, a pirate was under attack from every side at every second. Managing an eye-patch seems like it would be more of a nuisance than a miracle secret weapon.
Plus, the human animal is meant to see with stereoscopic vision. A pirate with one eye covered is at a distinct disadvantage to the merchant sailor who has both.
Finally, most pirates just weren’t that clever. They were regular sailors, just folks, like you and me. Well, a little unwashed, and a whole lot more vicious.
So, the next time anyone asks you why pirates wore eye-patches, you can say this with confidence: duh, because they had lost an eye!