A captain’s duty

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A CAPTAIN’S DUTY Richard Phillips, Hyperion Books, 2011, p. 304

Richard Phillips’ compelling novel leaves little room for the imagination – since it’s essentially a true story. It’s his own story. That of a tough, straightforward and sometimes stubborn captain who never wavers in the face of danger or unexpected disaster, as he is perfectly aware that this is what is expected of a ‘true’ seaman.

A Captain’s Duty relives the sensations and emotions aboard the United States’ merchant marine ship Maersk Alabama when it was attacked by a band of Somali pirates on 8 April 2009, as it was sailing 200 miles off the Horn of Africa. Phillips describes how fear and shock affect human behavior, what makes people under attack fight back even when they know they aren’t equipped to defend themselves, and above all what was going through the mind of an old-school captain when he willingly offered himself up as hostage in order to save his crew.

Phillips’ account of his five days in the hands of the pirates, from the time he was taken to when he was finally saved, is a page-turner, and the often gruesome details of the danger, brutality and executions he witnessed are not easily forgotten.

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