Tortoise Tales: Newsletter of the

Hi-Desert Nature Museum

January 2011
Pirate Cove
In This Issue
Piracy and Vikings
Queen Elizabeth I
Family Fun Day
Winter Lecture Series
1st Wednesday Program
Pirate Fun Facts
Quick Links
Piracy and Vikings

Piracy is a criminal act, such as robbery, committed at sea by private parties.  Piracy should be distinguished from privateering, which was authorized by their government and considered a legitimate activity.  The Golden Age of Piracy, from the 1650s to 1720s, gets much of the attention from media and movies, but piracy has existed in all areas of the world for as long as ships have sailed the oceans, and continues today.  The first pirates to reach our shores were the Vikings, warriors and looters from Scandinavia who raided from about 783 to 1066, during the Early Middle Ages.  The largest dragon-headed longships could carry more than 60 warriors.  Vikings spread trade from Russia to Constantinople, Arabia to the Near East. They brought new agricultural techniques to their settlements in Northern France and England, and they explored far and wide to establish settlements in Iceland, Greenland and briefly, North America.

Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth
Elizabeth I was Queen of England from 1558 until her death in 1603.  She was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second of six wives, Anne Boleyn.  Elizabeth succeeded to the throne following her brother Edward and sister Mary.  Elizabeth never married, and was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty.  Elizabeth's reign is known as the Elizabethan Era, famous for the flourishing of English literature, led by William Shakespeare, and for the seafaring prowess of English adventurers such as Sir Francis Drake.  England's defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 under her rule is viewed as one of the greatest victories in English history.  
Family Fun Day - Pirates!
Saturday, February 12, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Pirate PictureAhoy there mateys!  Join us for a pirate-themed Family Fun Day at the Hi-Desert Nature Museum.  It's a day of activities, hands-on crafts and treasure hunts for kids of all ages.  Costumes are encouraged.

Shanghai (Steve) Brown and members of his local musical band, There Be Pirates!, will be performing and leading kids in sea shanty singalongs.  Performing at 11:00 a.m. and Noon.
Winter Lecture Series
Captain Jack - Rackham, not Sparrow:
Accounts of the Real Pirates of the Caribbean & Beyond
Shanghai Steve BrownShanghai (Steve) Brown will make a presentation on the true brethren of the coast and practitioners of the "sweet trade."  With a focus on some of their more horrific practices and democratic ideals you won't often see in the movies.  From Henry Morgan to Blackbeard (Teach), El Dracon (Sir Francis Drake) to Bartholomew Roberts, and the famed women pirates - Anne Bonny & Mary Read (not to mention Grace O'Malley).  Sign the articles and push the capstan round as we set sail on the Spanish Sea, eyes on the horizon hoping for a glimpse of a fat, slow galleon lagging behind the plate fleet!

Thursday, February 10, starting at Noon
FREE and beverages will be served
1st Wednesday History Program
Artist Noah Purifoy 
Noah Purifoy Artwork

Long-time resident and local artist, Kit Brooks, will talk about her friend and mentor, Noah Purifoy.  Noah was an internationally known artist, sometimes called the "Father of Assemblage."  One of the founding members of the California Arts Council appointed by Governor Jerry Brown, and co-founder of the Watts Towers Art Center in Los Angeles, Noah lived and created an art legacy in Joshua Tree in the early 1990s.  Well known for an art project he created with six other artists using debris from the Watts Riots, called "66 Signs of Neon," he garnered awards and recognition from such prestigious institutions as the Pollock Krasner Foundation, the Gottlieb Foundation and Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.  His work has toured across the United States showing in galleries and university campuses and is in art collections all over the world.  Working as his apprentice, Kit had a rare insight into his unique personality and art process.  She will share her personal anecdotes and stories about this local, little known superstar. 

Wednesday, February 2, starting at 5:30 p.m.

$5 donation to the MBHS at the door

Pirate Fun Facts!

* Pirates were a democratic organization.  Each pirate was allowed to vote on where the ship was to go or if a ship should be attacked.  If the crew felt the captain was not succeeding they would vote him out and elect a new captain.

* Each pirate signed an agreement - called "articles" - before joining a crew.  For breaking the rules in the articles, a pirate would be marooned with a flagon of water and a pistol, to survive or die.

* Clothing was acquired from plundered ships, which resulted in pirates often wearing some very odd costumes.

* There were up to 80 pirates per ship.  In contrast, most English ships had only 30 men.  Work was evenly distributed among the crew, and so jobs got done faster with less strain than on traditional colonial ships.

* Pirates had the New World's first insurance compensation plan.  A typical award might be 600 pieces of eight for loss of a right arm, 100 pieces of eight for loss of an eye or finger, and 400 pieces of eight for a left leg.

* The Jolly Roger, or skull and crossed bones, we identify as the pirate flag was, in fact, one of many flags.  Each pirate captain created a flag unique to his command.  When pirates wished to show their deadly intent, they flew long blood-red pennants from the yardarms.  This signal was called "No Quarter."

Upcoming Programs and Events

Sat., Jan. 22, Matinee at the Museum, "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian", 11:00 a.m.
Wed., Feb. 2, 1st Wednesday Program, Artist Noah Purifoy, 5:30 p.m.
Thu., Feb. 10, Winter Lecture Series, Pirates, Noon
Sat., Feb. 12, Family Fun Day - Pirates!, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Wed., March 2, 1st Wednesday Program, 5:30 p.m.
Thu., March 10, Winter Lecture Series, Noon
Wed., April 6, 1st Wednesday Program, 5:30 p.m.
Sat., April 16, Earth Day Celebration and Conservation Fair 
Sat., Oct. 1, Starry Nights Festival 


the Museum

The Hi-Desert Nature Museum is located in the Yucca Valley Community Center Complex at 57116 Twentynine Palms Highway.  The museum is open Tuesday - Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Admission is free; donations support the educational mission of the museum.  The Hi-Desert Nature Museum is operated by the Town of Yucca Valley. 

For more information on our programs and events contact the Hi-Desert Nature Museum at (760) 369-7212 or see our web site at 


To view a full schedule of Yucca Valley events, sports programs and recreation classes visit the Town's web site at