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The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime Paperback – May 12, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 239 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; 1st edition (May 12, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865477221
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865477223
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #395,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The sea's unpredictability and savage indifference to the things it touches are the defining themes of Langewiesche's well-researched book, which sadly does not fare well in audio. Beginning with an exploration of the open nature of the waterways—a world where standards are ill-defined, rules inconsistent and laws difficult to enforce—the book alternates from historical background to compellingly written narratives of the ugly things that can happen on the water, from piracy to shipwreck. But Langewiesche's presentation is monotonous, and his delivery is more befitting a dry scholarly journal than such a vivid and emotional story. The climax of the book comes fairly late, when Langewiesche describes the 1994 Estonia disaster, which claimed 850 lives, and then follows it up with other examples of how greed at sea (too many passengers, too much cargo, or both) has led to tragedy. Even here, Langewiesche's voice lacks emotion; indeed, it sounds as if the material doesn't interest him. Langewiesche (American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center) has written an eloquent and powerful book, but you wouldn't know it from hearing him read it.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

For Langewiesche, the ocean is still a frontier, a lawless domain where brute economics always trumps moral considerations. His overview ranges from a story of contemporary piracy off the coast of Indonesia to a portrait of the ship-breaking yards of India, where workers die by the dozen. The centerpiece of his exploration is the sinking, in 1994, of the ferry Estonia in the Baltic Sea, in which more than eight hundred and fifty people died. In harrowing detail, Langewiesche describes the chaos—sons abandoning mothers, criminals robbing fellow-passengers amid the confusion—and then follows the botched investigation that ensued. He makes an eloquent case that the ocean's forgotten corners have become too dangerous to neglect: Al Qaeda has begun to use freighters to smuggle its members across international borders.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

Customer Reviews

I highly recommend it to anyone interested in first rate, well researched and written non fiction.
Leonard Fleisig
Langewiesche is very good at blending travel reportage, investigative interviews, and archival research to create very compelling stories.
A. Ross
The book also has no logical beginning or ending, and I can't see why Langewiesche even divides the work into chapters.
Caraculiambro

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is not the book I was expecting. Normally it would only have gotten three stars, for recycling three articles, only one of which was really of interest to me (on piracy), but the author is gifted, and his articulation of detail lifts the book to four stars and caused me to appreciate his final story on the poisonous deadly exportation of ship "break-up" by hand. It is a double-spaced book, stretched a bit, and not a research book per se.

Two high points for came early on. The author does a superb job of describing the vast expanse of the ungovernable ocean, three quarters of the globes surface, carrying 40,000 wandering merchant ships on any given day, and completely beyond the reach of sovereign states. The author does a fine job of demonstrating how most regulations and documentation are a complete facade, to the point of being both authentic, and irrelevant.

The author's second big point for me came early on as he explored the utility of the large ocean to both pirates and terrorists seeking to rest within its bosom, and I am quite convinced, based on this book, that one of the next several 9-11's will be a large merchant ship exploding toxically in a close in port situation--on page 43 he describes a French munitions ship colliding with a Norwegian freighter in Halifax. "Witnesses say that the sky erupted in a cubic mile of flame, and for the blink of an eye the harbor bottom went dry. More than 1,630 buildings were completely destroyed, another 12,000 were damaged, and more than 1,900 people died.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig VINE VOICE on May 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I came to this book as a person who spent over a dozen years in the ocean shipping industry. For me, William Langewische's The Outlaw Sea is a fascinating look at a subject with which I am intimately familiar.

Langewiesche's gloomy, albeit accurate, portrayal of life at sea for the `low-end' portion of the ocean shipping industry is marked by excellent research and even better writing. The book has some of the hallmarks of the best fiction. It unfolds dramatically and keeps the reader's attention. Langewiesche's portrayal of the passenger ferry Estonia is heartbreaking. The author pulls no punches. At one point, Langewiesche discusses the horror of the loss of 852 lives on the Estonia, notes the worldwide outpouring of grief (particularly in Northern Europe) but then pauses to mention that ferry accidents such as this are a routine way of life in the third world (in Asia and Africa in particular) and yet these accidents barely attract our attention. The terse, matter-of-fact fashion in which Langewiesche imparts this information has a greater impact than it would have if set out in a dogmatic fashion.

Last, Langewiesche turns his eye to the ship breaking business in India. Vessels that have reached the end of their useful life (and as set out in the book a ship owner's definition of useful life is far longer than may be prudent for safe operation) are run onto beaches in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan where they are dismantled in a manner that endangers everyone involved. Life for these ship breakers is nasty, brutal and short. Langewiesche's portrayal is so well written that one can almost smell the befouled air that lingers over the work area. The author also sets out the political confrontation between the ship breakers and Greenpeace.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is not the book I was expecting. Normally it would only have gotten three stars, for recycling three articles, only one of which was really of interest to me (on piracy), but the author is gifted, and his articulation of detail lifts the book to four stars and caused me to appreciate his final story on the poisonous deadly exportation of ship "break-up" by hand. It is a double-spaced book, stretched a bit, and not a research book per se.

Two high points for came early on. The author does a superb job of describing the vast expanse of the ungovernable ocean, three quarters of the globes surface, carrying 40,000 wandering merchant ships on any given day, and completely beyond the reach of sovereign states. The author does a fine job of demonstrating how most regulations and documentation are a complete facade, to the point of being both authentic, and irrelevant.

The author's second big point for me came early on as he explored the utility of the large ocean to both pirates and terrorists seeking to rest within its bosom, and I am quite convinced, based on this book, that one of the next several 9-11's will be a large merchant ship exploding toxically in a close in port situation--on page 43 he describes a French munitions ship colliding with a Norwegian freighter in Halifax. "Witnesses say that the sky erupted in a cubic mile of flame, and for the blink of an eye the harbor bottom went dry. More than 1,630 buildings were completely destroyed, another 12,000 were damaged, and more than 1,900 people died.
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