Framing the Dialogue

The Outlaw Sea

“the ocean’s easy disregard for human constructs, its size, the strength of its storms, and the privacy provided by its horizons…many admit that it is chaos, not control, that is on the rise.  They have learned what future historians may be able to see even more clearly, that our world is an ocean world, and it is wild.”

If you know nothing about the oceans this work will give you some perspective.  We all learned that 75 percent of the Earth is covered by water, but we really have no clue what that really means; how vast the world’s oceans and seas are and what it takes to tame these waters.

First published in 2004 The Outlaw Sea took me on an unexpected journey.  I found this book on a discount rack at a local charity bookstore and mistakenly anticipated a tome about ocean creatures, coral reefs, and hurricanes.  What I was treated to was piracy, tankers, and accidents. William Langewiesche’s book reads more like a novel than a non-fiction work.  His depiction of the sinking of the ferry Estonia provided facts intertwined with the compelling stories of some of the passengers and crew.  I never know what to expect with a book like this and it far surpassed my expectations. 

If your vision of oceanic shipping tends toward the Love Boat or some other romantic notions, you may be more comfortable in your ignorance about the state of the world’s shipping.  This work will certainly make you very uncomfortable about man’s attempt to tame the seas.  It also may provide you with some good news about the resiliance of the seas after so many human disasters spilling untold amounts of products and wastes. 

“to treat shipping as if it were any other orderly industry and to hold its responsible for its toxic by-products and the safety of its workers.  The problem is that shipping is like the larger world in which it operates – an inherently disorderly affair, existing mostly beyond the reach of nations and their laws, beyond the dikes and coastal horizons, and out across the open seas.  It is not exactly a criminal industry, but it is an amoral and stubbornly anarchic one.”

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