The Outlaw Ocean is a riveting, adrenaline-fuelled 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 the unbridled extremes of human behaviour and activity.
Traffickers and smugglers, pirates and mercenaries, wreck thieves and repo men, vigilante conservationists and elusive poachers, seabound abortionists, clandestine oil-dumpers, shackled slaves and cast-adrift stowaways: drawing on five years of perilous and intrepid reporting, often hundreds of miles from shore, Urbina introduces us to the inhabitants of this hidden world and their risk-fraught lives. 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.
Ian Urbina spent five years, more than three of them at sea, uncovering the stories in The Outlaw Ocean, which began life as a series of articles for The New York Times that won seven major awards. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times where his investigations have covered oil and mining disasters, sex trafficking, high-school shooting, criminal justice, worker safety and the environment. Several have been made into films, and he has been nominated for an Emmy. Urbina has degrees in history from Georgetown and the University of Chicago, and lives in Washington, D.C., with his family.
"Gripping and shocking by turns [...] Most of the book clips along with the pace of a thriller [...] stomach-churningly tense [...] as outlandish and as thrilling as a heist film"
– The Times
"A riveting, terrifying, thrilling story of a netherworld that few people know about, and fewer will ever see. As Ian Urbina ventures into the darkest folds of the high seas, his courage – and his prose – are breathtaking"
– Susan Casey, author of The Wave
"This is just incredible investigative work"
– Naomi Klein
"Urbina has written an astonishing book about a world most of us don't even know exists. These are dispatches from the lawless ocean – of traffickers, slaves, heroes, gangsters, crooks and scoundrels – which will amaze, enthral and appal you"
– Oliver Bullough, author of Moneyland
"An outstanding investigation of a global criminal culture on the high seas [...] His rendezvous with contacts on at least one occasion was arranged for 100 miles offshore through mountainous waves [...] Little wonder the stories he tells have not been told before"
"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 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, constantly astonishing 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"
– Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words and Song for the Blue Ocean
"Incredible, readable, riveting"
– Sam Walker, Wall Street Journal
"It's this kind of hard-assed reporting that can ultimately change the world for the better"
– Chris Dixon, Scuttlefish
"You simply have to read this"
– Karen Tumulty, Washington Post
– Oliver Franklin-Walles, Wired