How often was Kielhauling

Keelhauling - Keelhauling

Keelhauling (Dutch Kielhalen ; "dragging along the keel") is a form of punishment and possible execution that was once given to seafarers at sea. The seaman was tied to a line that was located under the ship, thrown overboard on one side of the ship and pulled under the keel of the ship, either from one side of the ship to the other or along the length of the ship (from bow to to the stern)). Keelhauling is extremely dangerous and should not be attempted under any circumstances.

The common guess is that the Kielhauling resulted in either a death penalty from extreme torture or minimal physical trauma that is likely to be permanently maimed. The hull of the ship was usually covered in barnacles and other sea growth, and keel-killing too heavy would typically result in tears from which the victim could later suffer infections and scars. If the victim were pulled slowly, their weight could lower them enough to miss the barnacles, but this method would often result in their drowning. There was also a risk of head trauma from collision with the hull or keel, especially when the ship was in motion. Also, if you sail through shark infested waters, there is a risk of the victim suffering a fatal shark attack.


There is limited evidence that Kielhauling was used in this form by pirate ships, especially in ancient times. The earliest known mention of Keelhauling comes from the Greeks in the Rhodian Maritime Code ( Lex Rhodia ) from c. 700 BC Chr., Which describes the punishment for piracy. For example, on a Greek vase there is a picture from the same period.

Several 17th century English writers such as Monson and Boteler recorded the use of keel tugs on English naval vessels. However, their references are vague and do not give a date. There does not appear to be any record of it in the English ship logs of the period, and naval historian Nicholas Rodger has stated he has no solid evidence that it ever happened. 1880 AD Denied Mr Shaw Lefevre (MP), who was in parliament with a recent report from Italy about a Keelhauling on the HMS Alexandra was confronted that such an incident had occurred.

It was an official, albeit rare, punishment in the Dutch Navy, like the painting The keel pull of the ship's surgeon from Admiral Jan van Nes shows . This shows a large crowd gathered to watch the event as if it were a "show" punishment designed to scare other potential offenders, as well as the whipping of the fleet. A contemporary description suggests that it shouldn't be fatal:

Keel-Hauling, a punishment for various crimes in the Dutch Navy. It is carried out by repeatedly dipping the offender under the ship's bottom on one side and lifting the other side after passing under the keel. The blocks or pullies from which he is hung are attached to opposite ends of the main courtyard, and a weight made of lead or iron is hung from his legs to sink him to a competent depth. This device pulls him close to the yard arm and from there suddenly drops him into the sea, where he is pulled up under the bottom of the ship on the opposite side of the ship. Since this extraordinary sentence is carried out with the serenity of temperament typical of the Dutch, the perpetrator is given enough time to restore the feeling of pain that is often withheld from him during the operation. In truth, a temporary insensitivity to his sufferings should in no way be construed as disregard of his judges, when we consider that this punishment is supposed to have a special adequacy in the dead of winter, while the flakes of ice are floating on the river; and that it will continue until the perpetrator is almost suffocated for lack of air, is dazed by the coldness of the water, or stunned by the blows his head received from being hit on the ship's bottom.

A footnote in a source suggests that it may have evolved from medieval punishment of the duck.

The term has survived to this day, albeit usually in the sense that it is severely rebuked.

In popular culture

In the film presentation from 1935 about the mutiny on the Bounty Captain William Bligh overturns a sailor, resulting in his death, but the incident is fictional. Under Bligh's command, only two crew members died of natural causes.

Kielholm is portrayed in the third episode of the fourth season of Black Sails when Woodes Rogers sentences Edward Teach to death.

See also


  1. ^ "Etymological Origins". . Retrieved August 9, 2018.
  2. ^ HA Ormerod, Piracy in ancient times (New York: Dorset Press, 1987), 54-56.
  3. ^ "The Sea Routes of Sir William Monson".
  4. ^ Boteler's dialogues , ed. Perrin 11-25
  5. ^ Nicholas AM Rodger, 2017 Personal communication
  6. ^ "MARINE-ALLEGED INSTANZDER" KIEL-HAULING '". HC Deb September 4, 1880 CE vol 256 c1275, accessed August 8, 2018.
  7. ^ The Dutch navy of the 17th and 18th centuries , Jaap R. Bruijn
  8. ^ A Universal Dictionary of the Navy, W. Falconer, 1784 CE
  9. ^ "'Duck' on the main arm of the courtyard is when a malefactor, by tying a rope under his arms and around his middle and under his clasp, is hoisted to the end of the courtyard, from where he becomes violent again into the sea dropped, sometimes twice, sometimes three times in a row, and if the crime is very nasty, it is also pulled under the keel of the ship ... '". Dialogical discourse on marine affairs , Nathaniel Boteler (1685)
  10. ^ "Kielhaul". Merriam-Webster Dictionary . Retrieved on September 19, 2018.
  11. ^ "Black Sails | The Making of Keelhauling | STARZ - YouTube". . Retrieved on January 29, 2021.
  • keel fetch Entry in: Johann Hinrich Röding: General naval dictionary of all European maritime languages ​​with complete explanations . Nemnich, Hamburg & JJ Gebauer, Halle, 1793–1798.

External links