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Real Pirates

Jean Shuan

Jean ShuanJean Shuan (alternately John Shaun) enters the story of the Whydah expedition when Samuel Bellamy captured the Tanner, the merchant ship on which Shuan had been sailing. A 24-year-old French sailor from Nantes, Shuan spoke no English, but upon the Tanner's capture by Bellamy's men, he "declared loudly that he wanted to be a pirate as well" (from Colin Woodward's The Republic of Pirates). He impressed Bellamy and was welcomed as part of his crew by helping them disable the Tanner and ferret out money hidden in the captain's cabin.

In the 1700s, Shuan's home of Nantes was France's largest port, built on trade in rum, sugar (the cargo carried on the Tanner), and slaves. Jules Verne, author of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, was born there, and his fantastic tales were inspired by the sailors' stories he heard at the docks. In such an environment, it isn't difficult to imagine Shuan finding his way to a seafaring livelihood.

Details of his early life are scarce, but it seems clear he was one of the many willing converts to life "on the account." The life of a merchant sailor, much like that of a sailor in the navies of the time, was a grim and brutal one. Shuan would surely have been aware that pirate crews were larger (meaning less work per crew member) and that discipline was easier. Or maybe he was simply seduced by the idea of controlling his own destiny, or being "a free prince," as Bellamy described himself, of the sea.

Shuan was among eight of Bellamy's men on the Mary Anne of Dublin, a pink loaded with Spanish wine. Though the Mary Anne ran aground and did not suffer the cruel fate of the Whydah, Shuan and the others were quickly apprehended by authorities after a poorly-timed decision to stop for a drink at a local tavern. Shuan was tried and convicted and, on November 15, 1717, was hanged in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

Portrayed by:

Garry Geiken

Garry GeikenGarry is delighted to return to the Science Museum, having previously been a part of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition team. A professional stage and commercial performer, he has appeared on stages across the Twin Cities, with companies including Park Square Theatre, The Jungle Theater, Torch Theater, Theater Latte Da, Pangea World Theatre, and many others. He currently serves as a member of the board of directors at Theatre in the Round in Minneapolis. In 2008, Garry and the cast of Gremlin Theatre's Orson's Shadow were honored with a Twin Cities IVEY Award for ensemble acting. When not "on the boards," Garry spends his time trying to learn enough guitar to keep up with his son (the results to date have been mixed).