A Reporter at Sea

There are times when being a foreign correspondent is anything but the childhood dream that lured many a dime store hero into newspapering. It’s dangerous and unrelenting to work in countries where the press is under fire, only to see your dispatches shoveled deep inside the paper, cut, or spiked.

But then there are times when a foreign correspondent’s life is as romantic as we’d wish it to be. Take, for example, this dateline and lede:

ON THE ARABIAN SEA — Rear Adm. Giovanni Gumiero is going on a pirate hunt.

So begins Jeffrey Gettleman’s colorful account in today’s New York Times of an Italian navy crew charged with protecting ships in the pirate ridden waters outside the Red Sea.

The article sails into more serious waters, discussing famine, Somalia’s collapse, and international law. But oh, the digressions!

In recounting the sometimes feckless repulsing of boarding parties:

There was even a recent case, according to several security contractors, in which Filipino crew members pelted pirates with tomatoes in an attempt to stop them from scaling the hull of their ship. It did not work.

(If there was ever a case of “too good to check” that’s gotta be it.)

On the allure of open water:

The Italians said that, deep down, pirates were creatures of the sea, no matter how many navy ships were hot on their tail. “When the sea is calm, the moon is bright, the weather is good, it’s easy to see how the pirates are encouraged,” said Enrico Vignola, a lieutenant on the ship.

And on the continental repast served to shipboard “visitors” (and presumably foreign correspondents):

For visitors on board, lunchtime was the highlight. The officers summoned up from the oily bowels of the destroyer a banquet of homemade pasta, marinated eggplant sliced paper thin, prosciutto-wrapped dates and tiramisu, finished off with cool glasses of spumante.

It seems that when Italians hunt for pirates, they hunt in style.

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.