Three quarters of the world is made up of ocean; vast, untamed expanses of water, impossible to police rigorously. For travellers by sea there is an ever-present danger of shipwreck, the age-old problem of piracy, and now an alarming new threat of terrorism. Forty-three thousand gargantuan ships navigate their way across the oceans, carrying nearly all the raw material and products on which our lives depend. Out at sea, ships become tiny islands, with their own distinct and isolated rules. Many are owned or managed by companies so ghostly that they only exist on paper. They are the most independent objects on earth, many of them without allegiances of any kind, changing identity and nationality at will. William Langewiesche, acclaimed author of American Ground, vividly reports on the unforgiving and brutal forces, both natural and manmade to which those who take to the sea are exposed. He explores both the murky politics of the world's oceans and brings us gripping, often tragic, human stories from the sea. Taking in an extraordinary event of sophisticated piracy in the Malacca Strait, reporting on the appalling conditions of India's shipbreaking trade, and giving a gripping minute by minute account of the sinking of the Estonia passenger ferry in 1994 - which resulted in the loss of 852 lives - The Outlaw Sea by turns enthrals and terrifies.
William Langewiesche is the author of four previous books Cutting for Sign, Sahara Unveiled, Inside the Sky and American Ground. He is a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly.