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The History of Maritime Piracy

Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425


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Books for Adults - Nonfiction

Cover Art: Dangerous Waters
Dangerous Waters: Modern Piracy and Terror on the High Seas
By John S. Burnett
Dutton, 2002, ISBN 0-525-94679-9, $24.95

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In January 1992 John Burnett sailed aboard his sloop across the South China Sea. He knew pirates frequented those waters, but didn't take those warnings seriously. In the prologue of Dangerous Waters, he relives the terrifying moments when pirates boarded the Unicorn and threatened his life. He survived, but not all seamen who travel the world's waterways are as lucky.

Modern-day piracy seems surreal to many of us, but it is a growing problem that could result in major consequences for our world economy if governments don't work together to stop it. In light of the terrorist attacks on September 11th, the potential danger seamen and passengers face elicit terrifying images. Imagine yourself aboard a cruise ship seized by terrorists who have no demands but to become martyrs to their cause. Or consider a VLCC, enormous ships that carry oil, sailing the most congested and narrowest waterway in the world--the Malacca Straits. Armed pirates board the ship and disable the crew to plunder the ship, which continues on its way without anyone watching to make certain she doesn't wreck on the rocks or collide with another ship. The catastrophic economic and environmental results of an oil spill of those proportions would impact everyone around the world.

This is the essence of John Burnett's book, a well-researched and well-rounded examination of how maritime piracy and terror impacts people's lives. He discusses pirate tactics, the vulnerability of ships and seamen, ways to fend off pirates, and the contributing factors that result in successful piracy. He also provides first-hand accounts of pirate attacks and ship hijackings experienced from the point of view of the victims and the few men, like Captain Noel Choong, Director of the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre, who hunt the pirates.

Dangerous Waters is a riveting account that focuses not only on modern maritime piracy, but also the potential threat from terrorists. It's a growing problem that is often ignored or overlooked, yet results in acts of violence, including murder. Perhaps the most chilling passage in the book comes toward the end when Burnett speaks to Deepak, a teenager who as a child witnessed a brutal pirate attack aboard his father's cargo ship that almost killed his sister. After he told his classmates about what happened, one of them declared, "There aren't any pirates! We don't believe you!" Do you?

Read an excerpt

Book Review Copyright 2002 Cindy Vallar

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