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July 30, 2014utbf_team@hotmail.com

Exceeding Treasure

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The Ganj-i-Sawai or Gang-i-Sawai (meaning “Exceeding Treasure”, and often Anglicized as Gunsway) was a heavily armed trading ship belonging to the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb which, along with its escort the Fateh Muhammed, was captured on 7 September 1695 by the English pirate Henry Every en route from present day Mocha, Yemen to Surat, India.

In August 1695, Every and the Fancy reached the Mandab Strait, where he teamed up with four other pirate ships, including Thomas Tew’s sloop Amity. Although a 25-ship Mughal convoy bound for India had eluded the pirate fleet during the night, the following day they encountered the Ganj-i-Sawai, and its escort Fateh Muhammed, both stragglers passing the straits en route to Surat.

Every and his men attacked the Fateh Muhammed, which had earlier repulsed an attack by the Amity, killing Captain Tew. Perhaps intimidated by the Fancy’s 46 guns or weakened by their earlier battle with Tew, the Fateh Muhammed’s crew put up little resistance, and Every’s pirates sacked the ship for £50,000 worth of treasure.

Every now sailed in pursuit of the Ganj-i-Sawai, overtaking her about eight days out of Surat. The Ganj-i-Sawai was a fearsome opponent, mounting 62 guns and a musket-armed guard of four to five hundred, as well as six hundred other passengers. But the opening volley evened the odds, as one of the Indian ship’s cannons exploded, killing some of its gunners and causing great confusion and demoralization among the crew, while Every’s broadside shot his enemy’s mainmast by the board. The Fancy drew alongside the Ganj-i-Sawai and the pirates clambered aboard.

A ferocious hand-to-hand battle ensued, in which Every’s outnumbered crew lost 20 men. However, the superior Indian force was let down by its cowardly leader, Ibrahim Khan, who rushed below and hid among his concubines. After two hours of fierce but leaderless resistance, the Indians surrendered.

The victorious pirates then subjected their captives to several days of horror, raping and murdering prisoners at will, and using torture to force them to reveal the location of the ships’ treasure. The pirates raped women on the ship, and some of the women committed suicided by jumping into the sea.The other survivors were left aboard their ships, which the pirates set free.

The loot from the Ganj-i-Sawai totalled between £325,000 and £600,000, including 500,000 gold and silver pieces. Every and the surviving pirate captains set sail for Réunion, where they shared out £1,000 and some gemstones to every man in the crew.

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