Looking at the gorgeous beach landscape above, you might think you were looking at Hawaii or New Zealand. Today’s Photo of the Day was actually taken in Yemen, a Middle Eastern country, which just celebrated its Unity Day after being consolidated in 1990, and the first Arab country to give women the right to vote. With borders on the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea, there’s no shortage of beaches, but while the US State Department still has a warning against travel to Yemen, you might just have to enjoy them virtually.
After years of murders, kidnappings, and heists, the lawless sea near the horn of Africa seems to be getting worse. A Dubai firm is capitalizing on these pirate infested waters with a strange new form of pirate tourism. The tour company, Dubai based Seahunters LLC, sells both 7 and 14 day cruises embarking from Salalah, Oman and Abu Dhabi, UAE. Unlike the quintessential cruise, the cruisers do not board in hopes of devouring mid-morning nacho buffets or snorkeling with dolphins. These cruisers board in hopes of embarking on a hunting trip with the most taboo of target – humans.
Like any proper cruise, you can choose a type of stateroom with offers ranging from the humble sounding “standard inside” to the opulent “Hemingway suite.” The similarities to any other cruise end abruptly when you begin assembling your personal armory. With offerings such as the predictably yielding “bazooka package” and a “mercenary madness” kit, you can personalize your weapons cache almost endlessly. The “mercenary madness” package includes rental of a M107 .50 caliber sniper rifle, an AR 15 assault rifle, and an 18kt gold plated Desert Eagle pistol. Bow and arrows are also available for purists. Flamethrowers can be rented as well, though require a 3 day licensing course prior to departure.Ports of call include the otherworldly Socotra island known for its Dragon’s Blood trees, and Mogadishu – the most dangerous city on the planet.
With only 17 rooms, the pearl white yacht is sized to attract attention from opportunistic pirates while spending days drifting aimlessly through the Gulf of Aden. Seahunters does not guarantee that pirates will attempt to board the boat, but in the event that they do, the cruisers are free to defend themselves with their weapons. What this defense entails has been the target of several human rights organizations. Decrying this bizarre form of freelance privateering, many groups feel that baiting the pirates into the line of fire is an extreme example of human insensitivity and a case of morbid exploitation. Seahunters maintains that their program will provide substantial positive externalities such as safer waters due to a fearful pirate population.
A typical seven night cruise itinerary
Day 1 – Flight to Salalah Airport from Dubai, welcome dinner and concert
Day 2 – Boat departs
Day 3 – At sea
Day 4 – Mogadishu tank tour
Day 5 – At sea
Day 6 – The “Splendor of Socotra” tour on Socotra Island
Day 7 – At sea
Day 8 – Return to Salalah
flickr image via dvidshub
A yacht carrying a quartet of Americans was recently seized by Somali pirates, the latest in a string of hijackings that reaches back millenia. According to MSNBC, the seized yacht, the “S/V Quest,” is owned by Jean and Scott Adam – a couple on a worldwide quest distributing bibles. While they no doubt expected to spread the word far and wide, they were certainly not expecting to be boarded by Somali pirates off the coast of Oman in the Arab sea. The waters along the horn of Africa are a hotbed of piracy, and travelling by boat in this region is about as reckless as booking a 2 week holiday in Mogadishu.
The Somali pirates are the modern day face of an enterprise that has existed for centuries. Piracy has been part of seafaring culture since man first took to the open water. As early as 1400 BC, Lukka sea raiders from Asia Minor began committing acts of piracy throughout the Mediterranean. These early pirates were known simply as the “Sea Peoples.” Aside from these early innovators of seaward sabotage, many groups and clans have sailed under the banner of terror on the high seas. The Vikings innovated the craft, the Barbary corsairs elevated it to an art, and the pirates of the Caribbean made it famous. Many other groups, operating in the shadows of history, took to piracy on the high seas. From dark age plundering to modern day terrorism, some of these groups of pirates include:The Vikings
Hailing from Scandinavia, the Vikings pillaged much of western Europe and northern Africa. The Norsemen covered a range from Russia to Newfoundland in their graceful longships, and pioneered piracy in the middle ages. They were the original world explorers – helmeted plunderers with a thrist for adventure.
Around the same time Vikings were wreaking havoc in Europe, these Japanese pirates, known as Wokou, began terrorizing the Chinese and Korean coast. Most of these pirates were Ronin, merchants, and smugglers. Allegedly, some were even ninjas, throwing a paradoxical spin on the classic “pirate versus ninja” debate. Why choose when you can just be both?
In response to the moors being ran out of Europe, many took up residence in northern Africa. Some of these displaced seamen became pirates and raided towns and vessels in Spain, Italy, France, and beyond. The infamous Redbeard, Oruc Reis, was a notable Barbary Corsair, and sacked many coastal Italian towns.
Off the eastern coast of Africa, Madagascar was a lawless place during the golden age of pirateering. Since no European countries colonized Madagascar, the island was an ideal spot for pirates to lay low and plot the next heist. Allegedly, the pirate utopia of “Libertalia” was located on Madagascar. According to pirate lore, “Libertalia” was a communist colony governed by pirates for pirates, where all shared in the booty.
Originally from the Spice Islands and settling in modern day Malaysia, these sea gypsies began raiding the strait of Malacca over 500 years ago. Eventually, they fell into a protective role, policing the waters for the Sultanates of Johor and Malacca. Unlike many pirates that called solid ground home, the Orang Laut lived exclusively on the water.
Classical Carribean Pirates
The pirate cliche is the Caribbean pirate, and the spokesperson is Johnny Depp’s character in Pirates of the Caribbean. The Caribbean pirate era began when Aztec gold bound for Spain was seized by pirates in the early 16th century. This escalated into the golden age of pirateering in the 17th and 18th centuries. Most Caribbean pirates came from European origins.
Bugi Pirates of Sulawesi
The term boogeyman originated from the orchid shaped island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. The Bugi pirates of southern Sulawesi were so feared that Dutch and English sailors brought home tales of horror to scare misbehaving children. The Bugianese were among the first to explore Papua New Guinea and northern Australia.
Sea Dayak of Borneo
Notorious headhunters, the sea dayaks terrorized the waters of the South China Sea, targeting vessels passing from Hong Kong to Singapore. In the mid nineteenth century, James Brooke and an army of Malays wiped out many of these pirates. Today, these people are known as the Iban and live in the old rainforests of Borneo.
The most powerful pirate ever was a Chinese woman. In the early 19th century, an ex-prostitute named Cheng I Sao commanded a fleet of more than 1,500 ships – larger than many navies. According to CNN, she was an adept business person and controlled her fleet via a proxy named Chang Pao. She developed spy networks, created economic agreements with mainland farmers for supplies, and generally revolutionized the piracy business model. Her crews stalked the waters of the South China Sea.
The modern pirate hails from Somalia – a crossroads of the derelict. With more warlords than laws, Somalia is a disaster state. The government has been more a fleeting idea than a real thing for the last 20 years, and it shows. Warlords control fleets that operate out of coastal towns, amassing ships, arms, and wealth. The pirates use small boats and assault rifles to board both passenger and cargo ships, taking hostages, booty, or both.
Piracy causes roughly $15 billion in losses worldwide per year. The most trafficked areas for modern day piracy include the South China Sea, the Gulf of Aden (off the horn of Africa), the Niger Delta, and the infamous Strait of Malacca.
flickr image via cesargp
The Chinese navy has been patrolling the area for several months now but has no foreign naval bases. Pirates captured a Chinese cargo ship recently and released the crew on Monday amid rumors that a $4 million ransom was paid.
While the suggestion was only posted on the defense ministry’s website and does not reflect an official plan of action, it will probably been seen with suspicion by other superpowers.
The U.S. and France both have naval bases in Djibouti and several nations patrol the pirate-ridden waters. All these forces have had limited success in fighting the pirates.
Everyone was on edge aboard the MV Athena as it passed through the Gulf of Aden on Tuesday night, local time. The gulf has become a hot spot for pirate activity. Earlier in the week a large cruise ship on its way from Rome to Singapore, outran pirates after they opened fire from their skiffs. So when a group of boats surrounded the Athena, the captain ordered passengers off the deck as crew members prepared for the worst. The captain reported to the relevant authorities that 30 boats had surrounded his vessel.
However, no shots were fired and no attempts to board were made. That’s probably because the “pirates” were actually not pirates at all. They were fishermen in search of tuna. A spokesperson from Classic International Cruises Australia, the company that owns the Athena, explained the situation.
“The captain followed all security measures as far as readiness on board for any eventuality by placing fire hoses around the decks and continually liaised with all authorities. It has been confirmed that the approaching small ships were a tuna fishing fleet.”