Perhaps the most notorious ship ever to drop anchor in Catalina Harbor was the 158-foot, wooden Chinese pirate ship, Ning-Po.
Although Ning-Po's 160-year spree of violence and bloodshed was well behind her when she landed in Santa Catalina Island as a tourist attraction in 1913, her history as a slave carrier, smuggler and fighter mesmerized all who went aboard.
Built in 1753 as a merchant ship, Ning-Po, then called Kin Tai Foong, soon became notorious as the Eastern Pacific's swiftest smuggler and raider. Armed to the teeth, the broad-beamed Ning-Po wreaked havoc on coastal sailors or villages for nearly 160 years.
So thoroughly did the Ning-Po disrupt trade of the East India Company that Britain finally had her seized in 1835.
After another stint of open-sea piracy, the Ning-Po was captured again, this time by the Chinese government, who ironically stationed her as a prison ship at the mouth of the Tetsieh River.
Since piracy was a capitol crime in China, the Ning-Po's decks often ran red with blood from the executioner's sword. On one day alone in the mid 1800s supposedly 158 pirates were beheaded on deck as punishment for their crimes.
During the 1861 Taiping Rebellion, the Ning-Po was seized and converted into a troop-transport ship. But the vessel was again captured by the British.
Between 1864 and 1910, the Ning-Po sailed again as a smuggler and pirate craft. She saw brief military action in the Manchurian Rebellion and was purchased from the Chinese government for $50,000 in 1912.