He Said He Needed Toilet Paper. It Was a Ruse to Escape

Michael Scott Moore's attempt to flee Somali pirates didn't work
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 26, 2018 9:39 AM CDT
Pirates Had Held Him for Months. He Came Up With a Plan
In this June 20, 2018, photo, Michael Scott Moore, author of "The Desert and the Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast," poses for a portrait at the Los Angeles Public Library in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

He said he needed to use the bathroom, and that he had toilet paper downstairs—he just needed permission to get it. There was some verbal tussling, but then Michael Scott Moore was given the OK to retrieve it. It was all a ruse, and the downstairs location he headed to wasn't in a building but on a ship, the Naham 3, the tuna vessel where the journalist was being held. It was August 2012; Somali pirates had captured him in January. And on this one night, Moore decided to make a break for it. In a piece for GQ, Moore explains what precipitated his leap into the sea. The ship had been anchored off Hobyo, Somalia, when the anchor broke, possibly after a huge fish tried to feast on the ship's barnacle-clad hull. As the vessel began to move, a twin-engine plane flew overhead. And that got him thinking.

He began to suspect drones were watching. "Someone with the power to launch a twin-engine aircraft had noticed the accident and reacted, quickly, so it was possible that even an aircraft carrier stood not far off. This ship was moving an American hostage to an unknown destination. The Navy had to be watching." He put his LED lighter in a plastic bag thinking he could signal to drones from the water, got led to the supposed toilet paper location, kicked off his sandals, and then ran and dove into the water 20 feet below. His first realizations after hitting the water: He floated more easily than he expected to due to the saltiness of the water, and he was really afraid. Oh, and that LED light? Didn't work, but the Somalis' spotlights did. Read the full story here, which recounts how he ended up back on the ship; he would remain in captivity for a total 977 days. His mother raised a $1.6 million ransom to free him. (More Longform stories.)

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