Once again in my seeming quest to read every scrap of nautical fiction ever written, I have come across this old canard.
The only factual references I can find to keel hauling say it originated with the Dutch back in the 15th century. That was before Columbus, when people were still being burned at the stake! Yet it keeps popping up in fiction that takes place in the 18th (Mutiny on the Bounty) and 19th (Treasure Island centurys.
I’m sure some of those scurvy pirates did it to amuse themselves, but is there any reliable record of a keel hauling being used as discipline (or execution) in any navy since the end of the middle ages?