Friday, September 21, 2007

Malacca Strait Pirates

Peter Gwin wrote an absolutely brilliant piece for National Geographic Magazine about pirates who patrol the Strait of Malacca. For his story, he traveled to Batam to meet an experienced pirate who shared with him some secrets of how pirates there really work. From National Geographic Magazine:
In my hotel room, we laid a map of the Malacca Strait on the bed. Jhonny’s thick fingers traced the coastlines with practiced familiarity. He pointed to places with obscured shoals and noted currents and unmapped islands. “This area,” he drew his finger around Batam and Singapore, “too many patrols now.” He moved his finger to a spot south of the strait, “now the best place for shopping is here.”

“Shopping,” Batam argot for the lowest level of piracy, is roughly equivalent to robbing a liquor store. Even the smallest cargo ships and tankers carry sizable amounts of cash, used to buy supplies in port and to pay the crew. Often these ships are older and have less security than newer, larger ships. Sometimes, Jhonny says, the captains are running their own scams, conserving fuel by going slow, then selling the excess to passing ships and pocketing the cash. He explained that shopping trips are carried out by teams of “jumping squirrels,” pirates who use wooden boats called pancungs, rigged with powerful engines, to stalk the ships at night and climb up the sides and rob the crew. I tell him I would like to meet a jumping squirrel. “It’s possible,” he said, and dialed a number.


Anonymous said...

Awesome story! Thanks for highlighting it.

Anonymous said...

I use to read NG all the time, but I've gotten so bored of the all green all the time love your mother earth articles, that I put the big yellow magazine down. This is not because I don't want to "save" the planet but because NG has not really given us any new data about the issue.

With that said, when I saw the pirate story I was intrigued, but when I read it I was blown away. It is a wonderful story masterfully told. Why wouldn't NG make this a cover story??? Why don't they turn writers like Gwin loose all over the world???



Anonymous said...

Definitely an intriguing article! Very well written and researched. I was just starting to develop an interest of pirating, but this article has me hooked!