Pirate hijackings in the Red Sea and nearby waters reached their highest levels ever, the Associated Press reports.
Pirate hijackings worldwide claimed 1,181 hostages and 53 vessels, a rise of ten percent since 2009. Of these, 49 ships were taken by Somali gunmen in the Red Sea or nearby waters in the Indian Ocean. Somali piracy has been the biggest problem area despite an international fleet of warships trying to stop it. Somalis have taken four more ships so far in 2011 and currently hold 31 ships and 713 people captive.
Somali pirates generally use speedboats to come up alongside freighters, tankers, or smaller ships and then threaten to open fire if the captain doesn’t stop. The pirates then board the vessel and radio in a ransom demand that can amount to millions of dollars. Prisoners are generally not hurt, although eight were killed last year. Usually the ransom is paid.
Because naval vessels have been able to stop some attacks near the Somali coast, pirates have moved operations further into the Indian Ocean where they’re harder to catch. Other problem areas include Nigerian, Bangladeshi, and Indonesian waters.
Somali pirates claim they have been forced into piracy because their fishermen have been pushed out of work by illegal fishing by foreign vessels and illegal dumping of toxic waste by big corporations.
If you’re worried about piracy, stay away from the Red Sea area, and check out our handy tips on what to do if pirates board your ship.
[Photo courtesy Mass communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky , U.S. Navy.]
England’s last submarine built during World War Two needs £1.5 million ($2.7 million) to avoid ending up on the scrapheap of history.
The HMS Alliance was launched just weeks before the end of the war and never saw action. It is the last surviving Amphion class submarine specially designed for long-range Pacific warfare. While it missed the big show, it saw active service until 1973. Now it’s the central display at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport, Hampshire, in England.
The HMS Alliance survived its active service unscathed, but is now in sorry shape. Pigeons nest in its corroded hull, and parts of it are actually falling off. Already £4.6 million ($7 million) has been raised for an emergency overhaul, but without the additional funds the submarine will no longer be suitable as a museum.
The Royal Navy Submarine Museum chronicles the history of the UK’s submarine fleet from 1901 to the present day, especially its key role in defending Britain during both world wars. A memorial to the 5,300 personnel who gave their lives in the submarine service is a centerpiece of the museum. Also on display is the Holland I, the Royal Navy’s first submarine, launched in 1901.
Image courtesy Keith Edkins via Wikimedia Commons.
Daredevils the world over have found numerous ways to conquer their fear of heights. There’s Sydney’s Harbor Bridge or the terrifying El Caminito del Rey in Spain. But for sheer vertical height or astounding views, there may be no more perilous set of steps than the Ha’iku Stairs on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu.
Currently off-limits to the public, the Ha’iku Stairs is a series of nearly 4,000 steps rising 2,800 feet to a peak in the Ha’iku Valley. Originally constructed in 1943 to help the Navy install and maintain a series of radio antennae, the climb has long been an underground hiker favorite for its ridiculous heights and amazing views. Take a look at these photos and you’ll understand why the stairs were nicknamed the “Stairway to Heaven.”
Don’t dust off your climbing shoes just yet. The area has been closed to visitors since 1987 and trespassers risk serious injury or death on the poorly maintained trail. Thankfully, groups like the Friends of Ha’iku Stairs have been lobbying for the site’s eventual reopening. You can sign a petition on the site to help voice your support and help renew public access to this unique place. Let’s hope this one-of-a-kind attraction will once again see the light of day.
A Rear Admiral of the Chinese navy has suggested the best way to fight Somali pirates attacking travelers and shipping would be for China to have a permanent naval base in the Gulf of Aden.
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.
In a country dominated by big box stores and strip malls, it can be easy to forget our past, but there are occasional spots that are so well preserved they overwhelm you with a sense of another age. Marblehead, Massachusetts, is one of them.
Founded in 1629, Marblehead soon became a prosperous fishing village. In the 18th century it was home to privateers (a politically correct term for pirates sponsored by the government) who attacked British shipping in the Atlantic. When the American War of Independence started it was Marblehead men who crewed the first ship in the American navy, the Hannah. The town also supplied crews for the boats that ferried Washington over the Delaware river. You don’t get more Yankee than that!
But that promising beginning did not lead to greater things. Marblehead became a sleepy fishing and yachting backwater. This was just what it needed. “Development” generally passed it by, allowing the Colonial houses and winding, cobblestone streets to survive intact. I’ve been all up and down the New England coast and I can think of few places that evoke the 18th century like Marblehead. When antiquarian and horror writer H.P. Lovecraft first saw it in 1922 he was so taken with its beauty he used it as inspiration for his fictional town of Kingsport, the setting of several of his stories. Don’t worry, there are no sinister denizens summoning up unclean gods, just wealthy New Englanders with an appreciation for the past.
The best way to see Marblehead is to simply wander in the old town center, where historic homes cluster around the harbor. You’ll spot buildings that are two or even three centuries old, and while you may be familiar with this sort of architecture, seeing so much of it is what’s truly impressive. It’s a bit like a Yankee Pompeii, where the vistas once admired by periwigged gentlemen can still be seen and entire blocks once inhabited by America’s early merchants are still preserved. The homes of 17th century fishermen and the cemeteries of Revolutionary War heroes are much as they were. Don’t forget to stop by the J.O.J. Frost Folk Art Gallery to see the work of the famous local artist and the Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Museum. These two stops will give you some historic background to the town.
Marblehead is great for history buffs, but it’s a popular fishing and yachting destination too. I’m not much of a sailor (although I did catch a sand shark off Cape Cod once) so I don’t have any first-person experience with this side of the Marblehead experience, but the beautiful harbor and numerous yacht clubs show a lot of promise. Vicarious landlubbers can get a splendid view of the harbor from Fort Sewall, dating back to 1644.
[Photo courtesy Judy Anderson]