News & Opinion | July 26, 2018 11:02 am

Journalist Details 32 Months of Being Held Captive by Somali Pirates

In an excerpt from his new book, Michael Scott Moore tells of the day he tried to escape.

pirates
Rebecca Donner and Michael Scott Moore attend The Ucross Foundation's Inaugural New York Gala & Awards Dinner at Jazz at Lincoln Center in Frederick P. Rose Hall on June 5, 2018 in New York City. (Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

In January 2012, journalist Michael Scott Moore was captured by a gang of pirates while on a reporting trip in central Somalia. In total, he spent 32 months — 977 days — in captivity.

Moore wrote a book about his experience, The Desert and the Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast, and an excerpt was published by GQ. In the excerpt, Moore talks about the day that he tried to escape a tuna vessel.

In August, a twin-engine plane emerged in the skies above the vessel. Moore thought it was a sign that the Navy was watching. They had been at sea for five months and the ship was heading in an unknown destination. Moore was unsure what would happen once they reached land. He believed that if he leaped off the boat with an LED lighter in his pocket, he could alert a watching drone. The Somali ship was in such wobbly condition that it would have to go forward, and Moore would just have to swim out of reach of the pirates’ guns.

“If it failed, I would probably die. If I did nothing, I might go ashore,” Moore writes.

He found an opportunity and dove off the boat into the “wavering, black, surprisingly warm water.” But the LED lighter didn’t work. The Somalis did not fire a shot, but the ship slowed and started to turn back towards him.

“Now I had several choices,” Moore says in the excerpt. “I could swim around, evade the searchlights, tread water, and hope for a helicopter. I could swim for the beach. Or I could drown myself.”