The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier (Hardcover)
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"A riveting, terrifying, thrilling story of a netherworld that few people know about, and fewer will ever see.... The soul of this book is as wild as the ocean itself."
--Susan Casey, best-selling author of The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean
A riveting, adrenaline-fueled tour of a vast, lawless and rampantly criminal world that few have ever seen: the high seas.
There are few remaining frontiers on our planet. But perhaps the wildest, and least understood, are the world's oceans: too big to police, and under no clear international authority, these immense regions of treacherous water play host to rampant criminality and exploitation.
Traffickers and smugglers, pirates and mercenaries, wreck thieves and repo men, vigilante conservationists and elusive poachers, seabound abortion providers, clandestine oil-dumpers, shackled slaves and cast-adrift stowaways -- drawing on five years of perilous and intrepid reporting, often hundreds of miles from shore, Ian Urbina introduces us to the inhabitants of this hidden world. Through their stories of astonishing courage and brutality, survival and tragedy, he uncovers a globe-spanning network of crime and exploitation that emanates from the fishing, oil and shipping industries, and on which the world's economies rely.
Both a gripping adventure story and a stunning exposé, this unique work of reportage brings fully into view for the first time the disturbing reality of a floating world that connects us all, a place where anyone can do anything because no one is watching.
About the Author
IAN URBINA is an investigative reporter for The New York Times. He has won a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News and a George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting. Several of his stories have been developed into major feature films and one was nominated for an Emmy Award. He has degrees in history and cultural anthropology from Georgetown University and the University of Chicago. Before joining the Times, he was a Fulbright Fellow in Cuba and he also wrote about the Middle East and Africa for various outlets including the Los Angeles Times, Vanity Fair, and Harper's Magazine. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his family.
"The Outlaw Ocean is enriched by Urbina’s gifted storytelling about the destruction of marine life and the murder, crime, and piracy that make the seas so dangerous for those who make their living on them."
—The National Book Review
"Ian Urbina’s reporting exposes the criminal underworld operating on our oceans, examining often overlooked issues that deserve our attention"
“In The Outlaw Ocean, Urbina focuses that eye on understanding his characters and their context to show why these crimes get committed and why the culprits rarely get prosecuted. Urbina goes further than most to do this. He shows you a problem from the front lines, by talking to the people there.”
"The most valuable contribution of The Outlaw Ocean may be to the literature, unfortunately quite extensive by now, of pessimism about human nature…in aggregate his stories reveal that something like a Hobbesian state of nature still exists and is available to anyone willing to float a few dozen miles offshore.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“The Outlaw Ocean is an outstanding example of investigative journalism, illuminating some of the darkest corners of a world we often don't think about… what he found ranges from horrible to shocking and from unfair to unbelievable… a magnificent read… proof that outstanding writing is still one of the best tools we have to get to know the world we live in.”
—Gabino Iglesias, NPR
“These chapters are vibrant as individual stories, but as a collection they’re transcendent, rendering a complex portrait of an unseen and disturbing world. Urbina pursues a depth of reportage that’s rare because of the guts and diligence it requires… The result is not just a fascinating read, but a truly important document… It is a master class in journalism.”
—Blair Braverman, The New York Times Book Review
“Not just a stunning read, this book is a gripping chronicle of the watery wild west and it shows us—frankly unlike anything I've read before—how global indifference can trap innocent people in endless cycles of exploitation, how the vast ocean has become a danger zone, and ultimately how we all pay a price for this mayhem and mistreatment."
—John Kerry, former Secretary of State and founder of the Our Ocean Conference
“Imagine a fantasy movie in which an explorer from Earth arrives on the surface of a living planet, to discover a lawless place where brutality is the only order and greed and fear the only motivators. Welcome to The Outlaw Ocean. In this utterly groundbreaking, often disturbing book, Ian Urbina has put his life on the line to lay bare the stunning inhumanity that reigns unchecked over two-thirds of Earth’s surface. This constantly astonishing book is seasoned with rare heroes—the author himself among them—who at great risk have weaponized their lifelong quest to shine righteous light and apply justice to the cruel anarchy that reigns over the majority of the planet.”
—Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words and Song for the Blue Ocean
“Our planet is 70% ocean and yet to watch the tv or read the papers you'd have little idea humans ever ventured offshore. Thanks to Ian Urbina for beginning to close the reporting gap, and for showing the high drama to be found on the high seas."
—Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
"A swift-moving, often surprising account of the dangers that face sailors and nations alike on the lawless tide."
“In The Outlaw Ocean, Ian Urbina offers a gripping series of portraits of scofflaws, renegades, con men, vigilantes and activists whose combat on the open seas has profound effect on our everyday lives and the world we inhabit. It’s a wild adventure story and terrifying cautionary tale, that should not be missed.”
— Sam Walker, former deputy enterprise editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of The Captain Class
"This is just incredible investigative work."
—Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything