Piracy has been a profession for as long as humanity has had maritime trade. The Bronze Age collapse is often attributed to the piracy of the Sea Peoples, while Julius Caesar was captured by pirates in his youth. Due in no small part to films and theme parks, the word piracy today is most commonly associated with The Age of Piracy, which lasted from 1650 to 1726 according to the Library of Congress. This conflation in many ways detracts from modern piracy, which predominantly occurs near the Somali coast.
Many Somali men who otherwise would have become fishermen turned to the occupation of piracy after foreign pollution and over-fishing killed off much of the local marine life (via Marine Insight). With no effective government working on their behalf, they took to hijacking cargo ships for income. One of the most prominent cases of Somali piracy came in 2009 when the cargo ship Maersk Alabama was boarded and its crew kidnapped (a major event that was further popularized in the 2013 film “Captain Phillips”). Another case in 2009 involved the crews of two Egyptian fishing boats, who likewise displayed the utmost bravery when they were taken captive (via Reddit).
Inexperience completely turned the tables
In April of 2009, the two fishing trawlers were setting about on their respective routes when they were boarded. Until August of that year they were held under harsh conditions, while ransom demands and offers were being sent back and forth between the pirates and the Egyptian government. The morale of the 34 crewmembers fell after they learned that efforts to raise the money demanded were not materializing (via Los Angeles Times). However, fortunes changed when a comparatively inexperienced group of pirates were entrusted with guarding the captives (via Reuters).
The Egyptians managed to overpower the captors nearest to them, and began to strike back with the pirate’s own weapons. At the end of the gunfight, an unknown number of pirates were dead, while all of the fishermen survived. Several pirates also survived, though most that did were ironically now captive themselves (via CNN). Regaining control of their ships, they sailed to Yemen where they dropped off their prisoners. Despite the offer of flights to Egypt, they chose to stay with their ships and sailed home.
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