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Keelhauling: Wikis


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Keelhauling in the Tudor period(1485-1603)
The keelhauling of the ships surgeon of admiral Jan van Nes, Lieve Pietersz. Verschuier. 1660 to 1686

Keelhauling (Dutch kielhalen[1]; "to drag along the keel"; German Kielholen; Danish kølhaling ) is a form of corporal punishment meted out to sailors at sea. The sailor was tied to a rope that looped beneath the vessel, thrown overboard on one side of the ship, and dragged under the ship's keel to the other side. As the hull was often covered in barnacles and other marine growth, this could result in cuts and other injuries. This generally happened if the offender was pulled quickly. If pulled slowly, his weight might lower him sufficiently to miss the barnacles but might result in his drowning.

Keelhauling was legally permitted as a punishment in the Dutch Navy. The earliest official mention of keelhauling is a Dutch ordinance of 1560, and the practice was not formally abolished until 1853. While not an official punishment, it was reportedly used by some British Royal Navy and merchant marine captains, and has become strongly associated with pirate lore.

Today keelhauling can refer to the spinnaker sheets getting stuck under the hull after dowsing the sail. This occurs especially in dinghy sailboats such as Laser 2 because nothing prevents the sheet from being pulled under the bow.


Cultural references

  • In both the 1935 and 1962 versions of the film Mutiny on the Bounty, a seaman is keelhauled as punishment for punching the Captain, and is killed by a shark during the operation. The incident helps incite the crew to mutiny, but is a fictitious event invented for the movies: one seaman did in fact die on the voyage—but of scurvy, not keelhauling.
  • On the pirate-themed 7th season of CBS's hit reality show Survivor, which took place in the Pearl Islands, Panama, contestants competed in an immunity challenge homage to this torture, conveniently called "Keelhauling". At the start of the challenge, the competing Survivors stood upon individual floating wooden docks, where thereafter they raced in a series of laps consisting of diving in, swimming under the dock whilst holding a rope that was looped beneath it, and finally emerging to collect a coin.
  • The Scottish Pirate Metal band Alestorm have a song entitled "Keelhauled" which appears on their second album Black Sails at Midnight. They recently released a music video for said song, which depicts a sailor being somewhat graphically keelhauled.
  • The pirate rap band Captain Dan & the Scurvy Crew have a song entitled "Keel Haul 'Em" which appears their second album Rimes of the Hip-Hop Mariners.
  • The American band Clutch has a song entitled "The Great Outdoors!" in which the lyrics talk about being "Keelhauled on the Constellation"
  • In the sci-fi/old western series, Firefly, Malcolm Reynolds (the captain) locks Jayne Cobb (a crew member) in the airlock after Jayne tries to turn in a pair of fugitives Mal had invited on the crew. Mal opens the outer door while they ship ascends back to "the black". Jayne begs Mal to shoot him if he wanted to kill him not let him get sucked out for a hot re-entry proclaiming "That ain't no way for a man to die!" Mal responds "Well I hear tell they used to keelhaul traitors back in the day. I don't have a keel to haul you on, so..."
  • The novel "Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson also contains a reference to keelhauling. Jim Hawkins is alarmed when he recognises the pirate Black Dog in the inn owned by Long John Silver, talking to a companion. Black Dog quickly leaves the inn and when his friend is questioned about the subject of their conversation, he replies "keelhauling".
  • In the classic TV sit-com, "McHale's Navy" (Season 1, Episode 9), Capt. Binghamton (Joe Flynn) jokingly threatens McHale (Ernest Borgnine) about reviving the custom of "hauling sailors under the keel".
  • The social networking site, Facebook, has an English (Pirate) translation that uses 'keelhaul' to mean 'remove' or 'cancel'
  • Band, Fall of Troy's (off new album In The Unlikely Event), has a song name *StraightJacket Keelhauled*
  • In the 1958 movie "The Big Country", James McKay (Gregory Peck) claims that he was keel-hauled the first time he crossed the equator.
  • In the Game Cube videogame Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, the fifth chapter takes place in a southern island called Keelhaul Key.

See also


  1. ^ Etymological origins
  • kielholen entry in: Johann Hinrich Röding: Allgemeines Wörterbuch der Marine in allen Europäischen Seesprachen nebst vollständigen Erklärungen. Nemnich, Hamburg & J.J. Gebauer, Halle, 1793-1798.

External links



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