As Governor Weatherby Swann and his twelve-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, sail to Port Royal, Jamaica, their vessel, HMS Dauntless encounters a shipwreck with a sole survivor, the young Will Turner, floating among the wreckage. Elizabeth finds and hides a gold medallion she found around the unconscious Will’s neck, fearing he would be accused of piracy. She then glimpses a ghostly pirate ship (the Black Pearl), disappearing into the mist.
Eight years later Captain James Norrington of the British Royal Navy is promoted to Commodore. At his ceremony, he proposes to Elizabeth. Before she is able to answer, her over-tightened corset causes her to faint and fall off the rampart, tumbling into the bay. The medallion she is wearing emits a mysterious pulse through the water.
Meanwhile, pirate Captain Jack Sparrow has arrived in Port Royal to commandeer a ship. Seeing Elizabeth fall, he rescues her, but Norrington recognizes him as the notorious pirate and he is arrested. He escapes and ducks into a blacksmith shop where he encounters Will Turner, now a blacksmith’s apprentice and self-taught expert swordsman. Following a sword fight with Turner, Sparrow is knocked unconscious and jailed, set to be hanged the next day. That night, Port Royal is besieged by the Pearl, answering the medallion’s mysterious call. Elizabeth is captured and invokes parley an agreement ensuring one’s safety until meeting and negotiating with the opposing side. Not wishing to reveal that she’s the Governor’s daughter, Elizabeth tells Captain Barbossa her surname is Turner. She negotiates for the pirates to cease the attack on Port Royal in exchange for the medallion. Barbossa agrees but, employing a loophole in their agreement, keeps Elizabeth prisoner, believing she is the key to breaking an ancient curse they are under.