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Why Did Pirates Wear Eye Patches?

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 3

For a long time now I have always thought that the eye patch stereotypically worn by pirates in films and the like was just to cover up some nasty battle scar or serious eye infection and give them more of that ‘bad ass’ battle worn look until I stumbled across a Wikipedia article on the subject which made a lot of logical sense.

Have you ever been outside on a bright day and then walked into a darkened room? If you have, you probably would have noticed that you couldn’t see very well if anything at all, this is because when you are in a bright environment the pupils in your eyes adjust themselves and become smaller in order to limit the amount of light that can enter your eye, the opposite is true in the dark; your pupils become larger and let in more light in order to help you see in the dark better. It is especially noticeable if you have ever seen a cat’s eyes in the darkness, their pupils are able to open very wide and this is why they are so good at seeing the dark.

Believe it or not dilating pupils is the theory behind the reason that sailors (not just pirates) wore eye patches. The clever sailor wearing an eye patch on just one eye this meant that during the day one eye was always adjusted correctly to see properly above the deck but when the sailor went below the deck where it was much darker he would swap the eye patch from one eye to the other eye in order to save time waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkness.

There aren’t actually any historical records that support the theory but I think it makes logical sense. Maybe you could test the theory yourself, go outside into the sunshine with one eye covered and then walk back in to a darkened room and uncover it, see if you can see better.

Wikipedia supports this speculation but also states that it is not supported by any historical records.



Feb 6, 2012 7:48pm
Sorry dude. dont mean to rain on your parade. I also hate to fight wikipedia with wikipedia, but if you look of the consensual response, you'll see that this isn't possible unless you have some problems with your brain...

Feb 6, 2012 8:05pm
Ok this is awesome.

I've been reading into this a lot. And I'm sorry for calling you out.

I actually made this account just to post that link.

But more searching shows there's more too it that dilation. In fact its not that at all. Obviously the pupil dilated right away (
Feb 6, 2012 8:19pm
wtf ok I got cut of.

Pupil dilation isn't what makes night vision happen. It's this chemical. This totally works.

In biological night vision, molecules of rhodopsin in the rods of the eye undergo a change in shape as they absorb light. Rhodopsin is the chemical that allows night-vision, and is extremely sensitive to light. Exposed to a spectrum of light, the pigment immediately bleaches, and it takes about 30 minutes to regenerate fully, but most of the adaptation occurs within the first five or ten minutes in the dark.
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