When you think about a pirate’s attire, you’re likely to think about three key essentials: parrot on the shoulder, hat on the head, and a patch over the eye. However, did you know the real reason most believe pirates wore eye patches? While there’s no recorded historical precedent to prove these theories as fact, most believe a pirate’s eye patch had less to do with a missing eye, and more to do with keeping one eye accustomed to low-light conditions on board.
So why was it necessary for pirates to have one eye always accustomed to low light conditions? Many believe this was for functionality purposes when going above and below deck, and since the pirate era was before artificial lighting, below deck light conditions could be pitch-black at times.
Anyone who’s gone from a light to dark room has encountered first-hand that it can take quite a while for our eyes to completely adjust and reach full dark-adaptation. In fact, the adjustment period can take up to 25 minutes because our eyes require the regeneration of photo pigments.
By wearing an eye patch, pirates could block the exposure of light to one eye, allowing it to stay adapted to the dark when they were outside then switch the patch when they would head below deck. Most believe this was particular important during scenarios when pirates would board an enemy’s ship and require night vision very quickly to fight below deck.
To learn more about your eyes and ensure they are kept in good working condition, book an appointment with your local doctor of optometry.