In the early 18th century, known as the romantic Age of Seafaring, one naval hero was called Admiral Peter Tordenskjold. At Least for the kingdom of Denmark and Norway, he was seen as their own Admiral Nelson. Whenever there was a need for a dashing exploit to save the day, they knew they could count on this daredevil admiral to come through on top.
Born in Trondheim, Norway in 1690, he was the 14th of 18 children of a wealthy merchant family. Apparently, during his youth, he was uncontrollable and got into many fights. Eventually, he ran off to join the Navy with his eyes on becoming an officer. Denmark and Norway had been united since 1524, so their navy forces were combined. Many Norwegian would join the Danish army or navy because it was seen as a lucrative career. But on his first application he was refused as a naval cadet, so spent three years working on merchant’s vessels. Mostly between Guinea and the Caribbean. At the age of 20 in 1710, he was accepted to the Navy as a cadet.
Tordenskjold’s years at sea let him quickly rise through the ranks, along with his reckless courage. By 1712, he was commanding his own 20-gun frigate ship. It was during the Great Northern War, where his reputation really started to grow. This was when a coalition was formed between Russia, Saxony-Poland, and Denmark-Norway with the goal of reducing Sweden’s supremacy of the Baltic Sea. Tordenskjold became known to attack any Swedish ship even when the odds were not in his favor, and always evaded capture. He became so feared that the Swedish crown put a price on his head.
Perhaps the most interesting story was the battle with a Swedish frigate called De Olbing Galley, the fight went on for over 14 hours. Tordenskjold ship took on massive damage, and they even ran out of ammunition. So he boldly sent the enemy ship a message thanking him for the duel and asked if they could lend him some ammo. Of course, De Olbing Galley refused but also thanked him for the duel and agreed to sail off in opposite directions. Apparently, the ships sailed past each other and cheered, drinking to each other’s health.
Legend has it that he lived life on the edge, to his very last breath. Which happened when he got in a fight with a colonel in Germany over cheating in gambling. The colonel challenged him to a duel, and despite Tordenskjold only having a ceremonial sword he agreed to the fight. The colonel’s military rapier quickly overpowered the flimsy ceremonial sword, leaving Tordenskjold with a wound that killed him.