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The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos and Crime

The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos and Crime


The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos and Crime

ratings:
3.5/5 (9 ratings)
Length:
7 hours
Publisher:
Released:
May 1, 2004
ISBN:
9781593974572
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

Even if we live within sight of the sea, it is easy to forget that our world is an ocean world. The open ocean spreads across three-fourths of the globe. It is a place of storms and danger, both natural and manmade. And at a time when every last patch of land is claimed by one government or another, it is a place that remains radically free.

With typically understated lyricism, William Langewiesche explores this ocean world and the enterprises--licit and illicit—that flourish in the privacy afforded by its horizons. Forty-three thousand gargantuan ships ply the open ocean, carrying nearly all the raw materials and products on which our lives are built. Many are owned or managed by one-ship companies so ghostly that they exist only on paper. They are the embodiment of modern global capital and the most independent objects on earth—many of them without allegiances of any kind, changing identity and nationality at will.

Here is free enterprise at it freest, opportunity taken to extremes. But its efficiencies are accompanied by global problems—shipwrecks and pollution, the hard lives and deaths of the crews, and the growth of two perfectly adapted pathogens: a modern and sophisticated strain of piracy and its close cousin, the maritime form of the new stateless terrorism.

This is the outlaw sea—perennially defiant and untamable—that Langewiesche brings startlingly into view. The ocean is our world, he reminds us, and it is wild.

A Macmillan Audio production.

Publisher:
Released:
May 1, 2004
ISBN:
9781593974572
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook


About the author

William Langewiesche is the author of four previous books, including the National Book Critic’s Circle Award finalist American Ground. He is currently the international correspondent for Vanity Fair.

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What people think about The Outlaw Sea

3.7
9 ratings / 7 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    While ocean travel might be safer now that is has ever been, that's not to say it isn't trouble-free. Profit motives and lax regulations can lead to maritime disasters, such as unseaworthy ships sinking in rough seas losing most of their expendable crews, or ferry disasters caused in part by overloaded ships. Then there are nefarious activities, such as ship graveyards that can destroy coastlines of countries desperate enough for the business. Some of these stories made a splash on the news when they occurred (such as the sinking of the Estonia). Most news stories garner but a few days attention -- here we find our about the aftermath involving court battles many years later.The Outlaw Sea is somewhat dramatized, particularly when the author ostensibly follows individuals that did not survive the incidents recalled in this book. The audio version is read in a rather dead-pan monotone...in some cases appropriate, but mostly the stories seem less interesting than they might otherwise be. If you're going to add some drama, the voice should bring excitement as well. Still, Langewiesche attempts to tell the stories of people that otherwise escape our notice and tries to humanize these stories a little more that we get from the news.
  • (4/5)
    I listened to this on audio, read by the author himself. It was a random pick from the library, though I am somewhat familiar with the author’s work for Vanity Fair. In reading other reviews once I finished, I learned that the books was really a collection of articles Langewiesche wrote for The Atlantic. I would not have guessed that, as it was pretty seamless, though more interesting in some parts than others. Langewiesche recounts various episodes of crime, piracy and tragedy on the high seas (especially moving was the account of the sinking of The Estonia, a ferry between Talinn and Stockholm which sunk in 1994). The overarching concern of the book seems to be the effects of economic globalization on the safety and health of the world’s oceans.
  • (4/5)
    The Outlaw Sea examines several ways that chaos erupts on or around the ocean: the (sometimes literal) race to the bottom created by 'flag of convenience' system of maritime regulation; piracy; individual behavior in the midst of a ship sinking; and the disposal of old ships. Langewiesche tells each of the stories well, and it only begins to dawn later that they aren't closely related, except that they all involve ships in some way. The author writes from an interesting place -- a deep awareness of the inequities of opportunity and wealth in the world, and an impatience with one-size-fits-all worldviews. At the same time, in contrast to, say, John McPhee, who revels in the random tangent, and whose subjects almost always come across as complex and ambiguous, Langewiesche cuts off his loose ends; everything in his writing reinforces his main theme. In Isaiah Berlin's metaphor, drawn from the Greek lyric poet Archilochus -- 'the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one thing' -- Langewiesche is a hedgehog, not a fox; and yet so much of his writing is a moral argument in favor of foxhood.
  • (3/5)
    Book is a collection of nonfiction pieces that all concern the sea and ships: a shipbreaking yard in India, piracy in the Melaka Straits, a mammoth ferry disaster, the difficulties of regulating international shipping. Interesting read.
  • (2/5)
    Tales of disaster, piracy and mayhem snare readers into William Langewiesche’s The Outlaw Sea. Exploring chaos on the high seas and the difficulties faced from a global perspective, he delivers poignant accounts of modern day piracy, economic and environmental disasters, as well as lack of functional maritime regulations. Langewiesche presents a problem plaguing 80% of the earth’s surface without the average sea-side citizen’s knowledge.As a reporter for The Atlantic Monthly, Langewiesche uses investigative skills to remind readers of the ocean’s vastness and how little governmental control can be exerted. He covers new ground by divulging into uncharted areas revealing a topic to the world that desperately needed exposure. Original reporting in journalistic style sets sail with historical accounts of shipwrecks, ecological disasters and other tragedies that result in staggering losses of life and wealth.Take for instance The Estonia which set sail on September 28, 1994 from Estonia intended to port in Stockholm, Sweden. After an explosion toward the bow, The Estonia met its end with 88% of the 989 passengers dead. Langewiesche write “Survivors described a capsize progressing so fast that most people had been trapped without a chance to reach the lifeboat deck, and crowds dressed in nightclothes or nothing at all had scrambled for their lives across the outside of the inverting hull.”Crossing international waters, Langewiesche reaches out to the far ends of the earth ensuring a holistic account which represents problems faced by all countries. He travels to India and notes “an India drowning in the poverty of its people” and reveals how such poverty leads to workers shipbreaking, the process of dismantling and scrapping old ships, without any protection for the workers or the air from the toxic waste released. Investigative reporting coupled with vivid descriptions and nail-biting storytelling enable Langewiesche to capture the reader in a state of page-turning suspense, even when one already knows the outcome. Although many know The Estonia sank killing most on board, passages such as “Where a luxurious ship had just been, now there were only people in the water, some in rafts, some trying to swim. Their cries for help could be heard above the howling of the wind” keep the desire to put the book down from waning.Langewiesche goes to great depths to provide ample statistical data. Such a wealth of information guarantees understanding the magnitude of chaos across the oceans. From this data, he transitions into tales citing examples of how such dilemmas affect maritime travel in some manner. For each individual problem, Langewiesche returns with a story giving the reader a tangible instance to ponder. Back to The Estonia, a dramatic description from passengers’ views is provided and followed with details providing what caused the ship to sink.Langewiesche’s objective viewpoint and the originality of the subject make the storyline interesting. A quick scan of sea-faring terminology aids in visualizing the compelling imagery during powerful scenes such as survivors’ accounts of the ship Estonia’s demise. Langewiesche’s writing approach takes a hard edge in combining factual data and historical narratives with rough transitions between the two. Mind-numbing bureaucratic jargon laden with acronyms “…designed, built and maintained to full IMO standards… Italian classification society known as RINA…”The Outlaw Sea makes it clear that political figures and governing bodies across the globe have a difficult task ahead of them. No obvious answer to such a vast problem presents itself and hope of finding a solution appears bleak. Langewiesche, however, raises awareness and ensures that the problem will not soon be forgotten. While the book broaches a new and highly important topic, Langewiesche falls short in docking his final thought leaving the reader wondering when the story will end its course.
  • (5/5)
    The title and supposed theme is a bit misleading. These nonfiction pieces all concern the sea and ships: shipbreaking yard in India, piracy in the Melaka Straits, a mammoth ferry disaster, the difficulties of regulating international shipping. But what exactly do Western attempts to regulate conditions for workers breaking ships in Alang have to do with the Estonia ferry disaster? For me, the former would be better among stories about so-called progressive people boycotting, say, shoes from that Nike factory in Cambodia--which pulled out of the country after an inaccurate BBC report that a 15-year-old working there (at the legal, livable minimum wage) had lied about being 16. A country where the only other job most likely would be prostitution. Much better to send such a factory to a more closed country like Vietnam or China, somewhere without unions or the ILO pioneering a monitoring program. But I digress: Langiewiesche does what I expect him to do in India: talk to lots of people, notice the far worse, more dangerous jobs these shipbreaking workers would be doing, He notices that in the evening they do have a little social life in their camp. Anyway--he's just a great, thorough detailed reporter. I ripped through the detailed accounts of the pirated ship and the ferry disaster in awe: to get all this details! The reconstruction! The amount of research and tracking down! Something akin to Sebastian Whatsis's. The Perfect Storm. But living near enough to Indonesia and knowing how much piracy goes on in that region (and of course near Somalia right now*), I could appreciate how much time and effort it would be to track down all these sources. There really are so many of these incidents and we rarely ever get the full or even partial story.It's hard for me to understand why there were readers that couldn't finish reading that essay or the one on the ferry disaster. The construction, they physical explanation of why it flipped! The chronology with the first-hand account woven through. Well, this could be a text in journalism school--the literary nonfiction class.The conspiracy theories about why it sank are also pretty funny,sad. Anyway again , his book on the Sahara is great as well. *And he did write recently in the Atlantic about a French yacht that was captured by Somalian pirates. You can look it up. The Atlantic is more relaxed in editing him than the New Yorker was, but still ...
  • (5/5)
    William L (as I will call him for the sake of convenience) has written a classic here, but be warned it is not a book with easy answers.The author is not a left wing radical at all, he seems a very typical small c conservative if anything, and yet he finds the unregulated nature of the sea deeply concerning - in terms of piracy, rotten ships, poorly regulated passenger boats, terrorism, and pollution.He's undoubtedly right. The accounts of shipwrecks (and the poor state and utter lack of control in most of the world's merchant ships) are chilling on both a personal and a social level. The book review I read before buying this said that the reviewer did not finish the chapter on the Estonia ferry disaster. Neither did I.Having been sailing on small boats I have infinite respect for the sea, and this book certainly increased that - it also highlights the scale - it really is possibly for pirates to steal a massive container ship and never be caught, even in the modern world of radar and satellites.The final chapter explores the ethical dilemmas of the famous ship-breaking yards of South Asia (where boats are simply run up on the beach to be dismantled by hand...this includes tanker sized vessels). Western efforts to regulate yards in more responsible countries like India, have, if anything, forced the trade elsewhere while ruining livelihoods. Having recently met someone who had visited the same breaking yard and said much the same thing, it is yet another reminder that little about the modern world is simple. The same can be said of many of the issues raised in this book.