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June 2009    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 24, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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A Diver’s Tale of Somali Piracy and the Seychelles Arm

from the June, 2009 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Last month, we reported on the Indian Ocean Explorer and how it was captured with crew on board (but no passengers) by Somali pirates, and will probably be docked in Somalia for a few months. After reading the story, reader David Hill (Hamilton, MA) e-mailed us that he was on another liveaboard in the same area when the Explorer was seized. Here’s his tale:

I was on board the Sea Bird in the Aldabra Group in early April. We were diving Astove Island, 80 miles away from Assumption Island, on the same day the Explorer was taken. We were warned immediately. It was an interesting 24 hours that followed.

We had to go back to Assumption Island the next day, as that has the only airport in the Aldabras, and from there, we were to fly back to Mahe. To make matters more interesting, the Sea Bird is Israeli-owned, with the captain and the engineer both Israelis who had no intention of surrendering meekly to Muslim pirates. We sailed at dark and made the crossing overnight with the ship blacked out and double watches standing.

At Assumption the next day, things got even wackier. We passengers went ashore, along with the three female crew members who were being evacuated on our plane. The twin-engine Beechcraft was supposed to be bringing the next set of divers for our ship but instead brought 12 Seychelles army soldiers. When the pilot landed, he called to the fuel shed and got no answer. Fearing the pirates had taken the island, he taxied the plane to our end of the runway and out came the soldiers, expecting a firefight instead of a group of puzzled-looking divers. Some soldiers were to stay on Assumption to guard the fuel depot while the rest were to board the Sea Bird and escort it back to Mahe.

Our group apparently has the dubious distinction of being the last to dive the Aldabra Group for some time, as all dive trips there have been canceled. Anyway, the diving was great, except for the alarming lack of sharks, which have been heavily fished almost to extinction in the area.

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