Punctuation · Uncategorized

Punctuation, Quotation Marks and Capitals – Lots and lots of practice!!

phillips

‘Nothing is lost until we choose to give up’: Captain Richard Phillips reunited with his family in Vermont, April 2009 Photo: Getty

Here is a long and interesting story from the Daily Telegraph to practise your skills in unctuation and such. Now please be a good sport and don’t look up the article in the newspaper, because there of course you can find the answers right away.

Let’s first rehearse some rules for punctuation, capitals and quotation marks.

In the article, you will be asked to put all these in.

I’ll try to keep this short.

Capitals:

When do you need capitals?

1 At the beginning of a sentence.

2 The first letter of names. This means any names. Names of persons, pets, places, countries, cities, movies and books.

In case you’re wondering whether words like dog should also be capitalized, the answer is no. Why not? Because the name of the dog would be Blackie or Buster or whatever. With names we only mean private names.

Same with a flower, for instance. Should rose be with a capital? No, because this is the name of all the flowers of this kind. But a girl whose name is Rose should be with a capital.

With names of books or movies: Capitalize only the most important words. In a title such as World of the Worlds, the words “of” and “the” are not important, so they’re not capitalized.

Also capitalize the job or title of a person. So use: Mrs Silvia Tree-Trunk. And: Captain Richard Phillips. And: Dr. Deirdre Gomski, Internist.

3 Capitalize the first letter of the first word, and all the important words in the title or headline of an article. Not every newspaper or magazine will keep to this rule, but on the whole if you open a magazine you will find headlines such as: Photo-Bombing for Peace, The Ad that Bit the Big Apple, and What’s the Deal.

 

Punctuation

I’m assuming you know how to use question marks (?) and exclamation marks (!).

Good, so we won’t have to talk about them.

Full stop (.) Use a full stop (Americans say period) at the end of a sentence.

Comma (,)

1 Use a comma when you have a break or pause in a sentence: At 10 o’clock yesterday evening, Samantha fell asleep in front of the telly, although her favourite series was on.

2 When you want to add extra information: Steve Jobs, the former CEO of Apple, was known to behave like a tyrant.

3 In a list of things: I’d like the tomato salad, a tuna sandwich and a cup of tea.

You could put a comma after “sandwich,” but you don’t have to. In American style you will usually find a comma here (before “and”).

4 After a conjunction (linking word) when it’s at the beginning of the sentence: However, the film was still four hours after editing.

Moreover, since the movie was so gripping, we didn’t know what else to cut from it.

Before a conjunction (linking word) when it’s in the middle of a sentence:

It was raining, so we braced ourselves for another mud festival.

Using a telephone that’s shaped like Hello Kitty may be cute, but you can hardly hear the voice at the other end.

5 Instead of “and” when you combine two bits of information together: Buster was a large, scruffy springer spaniel with dry fur like a mop.

Double colon (:) Use a double colon when you want to give a list of something or an example.

Example:

I need the following things: a camera, a tripod and a clear lamp.

Semicolon (;) Use a semicolon to connect two sentences that are related.

Example:

We got lost on our hike in the hills; we must have missed a sign.

 

Quotation Marks: “ “

Something that many of my students find hard to get, so read this carefully:

In English we usually use a style that comes from an authoritative tome (= thick book) called the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the standard style for all kinds of formatting. In this style, we put the closing quotation marks after all the other kinds of punctuation marks. So if your last punctuation mark in a sentence is a ), you’ll put the quotation marks after it. If your last punctuation mark is a full stop . you’ll put the quotation marks after it.

So this is rule 1.

Here are some examples:

“We still have three days of shooting in front of us,” said the director.

DJ Mantra was making a name for himself in the US (he had played large gigs in Chicago, New York and LA in the past year).

2 When you have a quote inside a quote, use double quotation marks for the first quote (‘’ ‘’) and single quotation marks for the inside quote (‘ ‘).

Have a look at this example:

“George Clooney is just a friend,” said Sandra Bullock. “He often tells me: ‘You’re like my other half.’ He’s right that we resemble each other too much.”

Okay, now after this review you’re ready for the (big) exercise. Read the article and add the missing capitals, punctuation and quotation marks.

Captain Phillips interview: ‘I didn’t care if I died’

A sailor’s ordeal at the hands of Somali pirates is now the subject of a gripping new film starring Tom Hanks. But how did Captain Phillips live to tell the tale?

 

phillips2

By Colin Freeman

7:00AM BST 08 Oct 2013

 

In the first part of the text: add capitals.

 

the way captain richard phillips tells it, commercial sailors are the most unsung heroes ever to have cruised the seven seas. in peacetime, they ship 90 per cent of everything you’ll ever buy, be it the flatscreen television you’re watching, the shoes you’re wearing or the car you’re driving. without them, there’d be no walmart, asda or amazon. not that anyone ever thanks them.

in wartime, meanwhile, they are directly in the firing line, the us merchant marine suffering more casualties than any other american service as they brought tanks to normandy and bullets to okinawa. not that anyone gave them a ticker-tape parade. as he puts it: “a lot of us have a chip on our shoulder. we have a proud tradition. but we never make the headlines.”

it’s fair to say, then, that phillips himself has broken radically with convention. four years ago, his cargo ship, the maersk alabama, was hijacked by somali pirates in the indian ocean, handing the pirates a prize beyond their wildest dreams, the modern equivalent of a spanish galleon full of bullion. not because of the cargo on board, which included food aid for rwanda, but because all but one of the 20 crew were americans – a jackpot in terms of high-value hostages. if the shipping company wasn’t prepared to pay a ransom, there’d be no shortage of buyers on somalia’s mainland, home to the al-qaeda-linked al-shabaab movement.

for a time, it looked like becoming america’s worst us hostage crisis since the 1979 tehran embassy siege, a serious test of president obama’s mettle during his first months in the white house. instead, it turned into a tale of all-american heroism, as members of the crew, hiding below deck, turned the tables by overpowering the pirate leader and taking him hostage. phillips, who was being held at gunpoint on the ship’s bridge, then allowed himself to be taken as collateral for a “prisoner swap”, figuring that one us hostage was better than 20. finally, as the pirates tried to take phillips to the somali coast, two us navy warships blockaded them, resulting in a tense three-day stand-off.

 

In the next bit: add punctuation.

 

The drama covered in real time on US television networks made the seamen the toast of America Phillips’s wife Andrea, got a call of congratulation from a relieved President Obama while Phillips went on to co-author a best-selling book A Captain’s Duty Not bad for a bunch of sailors no one ever cared about And now the hostage story with the Hollywood ending has had the Hollywood treatment Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks as the hero is released on October 18 after opening the London Film Festival on October 9 it has already received enthusiastic reviews.

So has the chip finally been torn from Phillips’s epaulette about the way the world sees merchant seamen It is a good film, yes, and it does portray a captain in peril he tells me I didn’t really care who played me whether it was Danny DeVito or Tom Hanks but Hanks does a very good job I met him a few times and he is a very nice gentleman a very average Joe It was the sense of two different worlds colliding that made the story a draw for British director Paul Greengrass the ex-documentary maker who was also behind the acclaimed United 93 about the hijacking of one of the four 9/11 airliners He was intrigued by how the open ocean a place most people never go is where the lifeblood of modern capitalism comes in contact with the chaos of Somalia where decades of anarchy has led to the rebirth of a medieval barbarity like piracy

The film touches on the root causes of the piracy crisis which, at its peak in 2011 saw some 700 sailors in captivity Eyl the pirate port from where Hanks’s captors set out is vividly brought to life as a modern-day Hispaniola a lawless dirt-poor place where buccaneering is the only decent living The script also raises the question of whether Somali fishermen were driven into piracy by foreign trawlers who plundered the fish stocks in their unpoliced waters

But there is no Oliver Stone-style lecturing, and the pirates who are played in the film by untrained actors from the “Little Mogadishu” district of Minneapolis are a terrifying presence They’re utterly convincing

 

In the next bit: add quotation marks.

 

And I should know. Five years ago, I was kidnapped by pirates in Somalia myself while reporting for the Sunday Telegraph. It is perhaps a testament to the Somali actors’ abilities that my instinctive reaction on watching the film was to want to see them dead.

Phillips, now 58, is not enamoured with them either. Just like merchant seamen, he says, pirates don’t get the PR they deserve. All that Pirates of the Caribbean stuff, with Johnny Depp prancing around like a dandy, is romantic twaddle, he says. Pirates are just cold-blooded persecutors of ordinary sailors like him, whose job is already quite dangerous enough, thank you very much. They are very cruel people, preying on merchant seamen who already have to deal with all kinds of other hazards, like storms or fires on board, all of which can be a death sentence, says Phillips, who nearly died after being hit by a four-ton metal bar once during a loading accident in Greenland. We are thousands of miles from anywhere, and we have to be our own hospitals, doctors, police and firemen, entirely self-sufficient 24-7, as we can’t pick up the phone and call for help.

All the same, it was a certain swashbuckling instinct that drew Phillips to the sea in the first place. After a wayward youth in Irish-American Boston, by 1974 he was earning a living as a cabbie, his life going nowhere, when a man in an expensive leather jacket clambered into his cab around 10 o’clock one morning, telling him: I want booze and I want broads. Upon being handed a $5 tip for the $5 ride to the nearest fleshpots, Phillips asked how his fare earned such a handsome living. I’m a merchant mariner, came the answer. We carry cargo in ships.

The cargo bit sounded dull, but the booze and broads extracurriculars sounded fun, so off Phillips went to Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Over the decades that followed, he fell in love with his day job too, travelling the world on three-month shifts, but also, eventually, raising a family at a 19th-century farmhouse back in Vermont.

The trip when he was hijacked, sailing from Oman to Mombasa, should have been routine: the inevitable row with his wife just before he left for sea, compensated for by the usual phone calls home, where he’d cheer her up with Barry White impressions. But by March 2009, the Indian Ocean was no longer the relaxed, easy place he’d sailed through many times before.

Hijackings had been skyrocketing since the previous year, with the pirates ranging hundreds of miles out to sea in so-called mother ships. Merchant vessels were beginning to kit themselves like floating fortresses, with high-pressure hoses, anti-piracy fences and audio guns that transmit a deafening sonic ring. As one sailor angrily complains in the film, merchant seamen aren’t paid to fight pirates. But on Phillips’s own vessel, they also had axes and lead pipes stockpiled – not that they’d be much use against AK-47s.

As Phillips puts it in his book: It was like a lion and a herd of wildebeest on the African plain. You just hoped there was safety in numbers, because if the lion chose you, you were going to have a very, very bad day. And just as the lion looks for weakness – the slow, the lame, the young – pirates zeroed in on ships that looked defenceless. His crew was also relatively unusual in being made up almost entirely of Americans, rather than the Filipinos, Indians, and other Third World nationals who account for most of the world’s one million commercial sailors these days. Wasn’t he worried from the outset?

It’s true that American crews are a much smaller percentage these days, but we’d been doing that run for a year-and-a-half, says Phillips, whose vessel was the first US-flagged ship to fall victim to piracy since the 19th century. I’d always told my crew that being attacked was a matter of when, not if. But when you’re at sea, piracy is just one of the threats, and you deal with it. The first few days went peacefully but anxiously, Phillips practising anti-piracy drills and scanning the latest hijack reports: 39 attempts in a single week. Then, one lunchtime, three fast-moving blips appeared on the radar, heading straight for the Alabama. It was three pirate skiffs, full of men with machine guns.

Phillips sped up and headed into heavier seas, slowing the pirates down with the waves in his wake. Knowing that they might be listening in, he also faked a message over the radio from a US Navy ship, saying that a helicopter gunship was just five minutes away. To his surprise and delight, the pirates gave up. But the next day, another skiff approached. This time, the sea was dead calm, preventing the Maersk Alabama from outrunning them. Soon, they were peppering the ship with bullets, Phillips trying to keep them at bay by firing distress flares.

 

Some more practice: add capitals.

 

the next thing, they had hooked a grappling ladder to the ship’s side and swarmed aboard. in the film, a pirate is soon pointing an ak-47 at phillips’s chest, saying: “relax, captain, relax. just business. no al-qaeda”. so began phillips’s acquaintance with the leader, tall guy, musso, and young guy, whose eyes lit up when they realised they had a ship full of americans. the question for the pirates, though, was how to find them all. while phillips and two others were on the bridge, the rest of the crew had hidden away in the ship’s 500ft-long hold, a labyrinth of passageways, cargo areas and engine works. even in normal times, stowaways can hide there and simply never be found. and on this occasion, the area below deck was pitch dark after the crew disabled the emergency lights.

despite being ordered at gunpoint to summon the rest of the crew back to the bridge, phillips played for time until the leader’s impatience got the better of him. minus his weapon to prevent anyone seizing it, the leader then headed down into the ship’s bowels to locate the crew himself. but the unfamiliar blackness proved to be their hunting ground, not his. as the leader rounded a corner, mike perry, the ship’s chief engineer, grabbed him and put a knife to his throat, bundling him into a secure room where the rest of the crew were hiding.

perry later said that he plucked up courage for the ambush by reminding himself of stories about pirates forcing kidnapped sailors to play russian roulette, deer hunter style. not long after, an unexpected message boomed out over the ship’s tannoy. “attention pirates. we have your buddy. we will exchange him for the captain.” panicking, the remaining pirates agreed to a trade, sealed by $30,000 from the ship’s safe that phillips offered them, so that they did not return to their bosses in eyl empty-handed.

 

In the next bit: add punctuation.

 

As their own skiff had been wrecked during the hijack the deal was that they would depart in the ship’s motorised lifeboat leaving the grappling ladder behind so that they could not get aboard again But for that reason the pirates insisted that the exchange be done on the lifeboat itself once it was already lowered into the water Phillips agreed deciding that getting the rest of his crew freed was more important than the risk of the pirates breaking their word It was as he saw it his captain’s duty The pirates though had no such ethics Sure enough the moment the Leader was lowered into the lifeboat they refused to let Phillips go

“With hindsight it was a mistake but at least I got them off the ship” says Phillips whose actions were seen as heroic by some and as foolhardy by others “I also felt that, as it was just me, I would have a good chance of escaping at some point”

The pirates had other ideas heading off towards the Somali mainland But so too did two US warships which blockaded the lifeboat and ordered them to hand Phillips over A three-day pressure-cooker siege ensued with Phillips and the pirates stuck in hideously hot conditions in the lifeboat a cramped covered capsule

One of the warships’ commanders managed to lure the Leader on board with the promise of a ransom But with him gone the rest started to panic beating Phillips constantly and threatening to kill him At one point feeling faint and dizzy he thought he was having a heart attack “I couldn’t focus on anything it was like my mind had let go” he says. “I thought ‘my heart’s giving out this is how it happens’”

Later he scribbled a message to his family realising it might be his last chance to say goodbye to them Soon he was wishing that the warships would simply open up on the lifeboat with their 0.50 calibre machine guns putting them all out of their misery “I didn’t care if I died at that moment I just wanted the whole thing over with”

Instead the ships’ response was rather more precise After a long wait to get three clear shots at the pirates as the lifeboat bobbed around a team of US Navy Seal snipers concealed on one of the warships saw their moment and pulled their triggers “All of a sudden I was sprayed with debris” Phillips recalls “At first I thought it was the pirates shooting each other The next thing a US Navy Seal slid down a rope and I could hear him asking me if it was safe I flicked my head up and saw one of the pirates going into the death rattle so I knew he was gone The other two I never saw as it was dark”

Covered in his captors’ blood Phillips was transferred to the USS Bainbridge and eventually back to the US So too was the Leader  real name Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse  who was later sentenced to 33 years in Indiana’s Terre Haute prison a notoriously tough federal facility nicknamed the Terror Hut by inmates Phillips has no plans to visit

 

In the next bit: add quotation marks.

 

The sentence was justified completely, he says. This was a guy who told me he had kidnapped and murdered another captain, and who told me that I was going to die in Somalia. He is just a thug who doesn’t care about other people. Yes, I’ve heard the stories about foreigners stealing Somalia’s fish, but I have sailed those waters, and believe me, you see a lot of fish. The fact is, piracy is a crime, and it’s a choice some people make. There has to be repercussions for their actions.

Today, fortunately, piracy is on the wane, thanks largely to ships starting to carry armed guards. But not every hijack has a happy ending, or such a prompt one. The average hijack now lasts eight months. And to this day, around 100 sailors are still hostage, many simply abandoned by employers who did not bother with ransom insurance. Some have been in custody for up to three years, the pirates torturing them in a bid to put pressure on the ships’ owners. The horror stories that emerge from prolonged hijacks, meanwhile, read like something from Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, with sailors committing suicide and going mad. Those who are eventually released often suffer serious post-traumatic stress.

And what of Phillips? Did the hijacking change him? Not really. People say your life must feel great now, but my life was great before, he says. What the hijacking taught me was that nothing is lost until we choose to give up, and we can all do a lot more than we think. Including, it seems, returning to the scene of the crime.

When I spoke to Phillips, he was just back from sea again, and has even sailed near the Somali coast. The ship he was on was armed, but a few suspicious-looking skiffs did sniff around occasionally. Was he not tempted to stay at home in Vermont? No, I still like being at sea, it’s what I’ve done for 34 years and anyway, the wife is happy to see me back to work, he laughs. And so, the phone calls home continue. And, presumably, the Barry White impressions. That’s a captain’s duty for you.

Captain Phillips opens the London Film Festival on October 9, and goes on general release on October 18.

 

 

You can find the answers at the bottom of this page.

 

 

scroll down

 

 

 

 

 

scroll down some more

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answers: 

The way Captain Richard Phillips tells it, commercial sailors are the most unsung heroes ever to have cruised the seven seas. In peacetime, they ship 90 per cent of everything you’ll ever buy, be it the flatscreen television you’re watching, the shoes you’re wearing or the car you’re driving. Without them, there’d be no Walmart, Asda or Amazon. Not that anyone ever thanks them.

In wartime, meanwhile, they are directly in the firing line, the US Merchant Marine suffering more casualties than any other American service as they brought tanks to Normandy and bullets to Okinawa. Not that anyone gave them a ticker-tape parade. As he puts it: “A lot of us have a chip on our shoulder. We have a proud tradition. But we never make the headlines.”

It’s fair to say, then, that Phillips himself has broken radically with convention. Four years ago, his cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, was hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean, handing the pirates a prize beyond their wildest dreams, the modern equivalent of a Spanish galleon full of bullion. Not because of the cargo on board, which included food aid for Rwanda, but because all but one of the 20 crew were Americans – a jackpot in terms of high-value hostages. If the shipping company wasn’t prepared to pay a ransom, there’d be no shortage of buyers on Somalia’s mainland, home to the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab movement.

For a time, it looked like becoming America’s worst US hostage crisis since the 1979 Tehran embassy siege, a serious test of President Obama’s mettle during his first months in the White House. Instead, it turned into a tale of all-American heroism, as members of the crew, hiding below deck, turned the tables by overpowering the pirate leader and taking him hostage. Phillips, who was being held at gunpoint on the ship’s bridge, then allowed himself to be taken as collateral for a “prisoner swap”, figuring that one US hostage was better than 20. Finally, as the pirates tried to take Phillips to the Somali coast, two US Navy warships blockaded them, resulting in a tense three-day stand-off.

The drama, covered in real time on US television networks, made the seamen the toast of America. Phillips’s wife, Andrea, got a call of congratulation from a relieved President Obama, while Phillips went on to co-author a best-selling book, A Captain’s Duty. Not bad for a bunch of sailors no one ever cared about. And now, the hostage story with the Hollywood ending has had the Hollywood treatment. Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks as the hero, is released on October 18 after opening the London Film Festival on October 9; it has already received enthusiastic reviews.

So has the chip finally been torn from Phillips’s epaulette about the way the world sees merchant seamen? “It is a good film, yes, and it does portray a captain in peril,” he tells me. “I didn’t really care who played me, whether it was Danny DeVito or Tom Hanks, but Hanks does a very good job. I met him a few times, and he is a very nice gentleman, a very average Joe.” It was the sense of two different worlds colliding that made the story a draw for British director Paul Greengrass, the ex-documentary maker who was also behind the acclaimed United 93, about the hijacking of one of the four 9/11 airliners. He was intrigued by how the open ocean, a place most people never go, is where the lifeblood of modern capitalism comes in contact with the chaos of Somalia, where decades of anarchy has led to the rebirth of a medieval barbarity like piracy.

The film touches on the root causes of the piracy crisis, which, at its peak in 2011, saw some 700 sailors in captivity. Eyl, the pirate port from where Hanks’s captors set out, is vividly brought to life as a modern-day Hispaniola, a lawless, dirt-poor place where buccaneering is the only decent living. The script also raises the question of whether Somali fishermen were driven into piracy by foreign trawlers who plundered the fish stocks in their unpoliced waters.

But there is no Oliver Stone-style lecturing, and the pirates, who are played in the film by untrained actors from the “Little Mogadishu” district of Minneapolis, are a terrifying presence. They’re utterly convincing.

And I should know. Five years ago, I was kidnapped by pirates in Somalia myself while reporting for the Sunday Telegraph. It is perhaps a testament to the Somali actors’ abilities that my instinctive reaction on watching the film was to want to see them dead.

Phillips, now 58, is not enamoured with them either. Just like merchant seamen, he says, pirates don’t get the PR they deserve. All that Pirates of the Caribbean stuff, with Johnny Depp prancing around like a dandy, is romantic twaddle, he says. Pirates are just cold-blooded persecutors of ordinary sailors like him, whose job is already quite dangerous enough, thank you very much. “They are very cruel people, preying on merchant seamen who already have to deal with all kinds of other hazards, like storms or fires on board, all of which can be a death sentence,” says Phillips, who nearly died after being hit by a four-ton metal bar once during a loading accident in Greenland. “We are thousands of miles from anywhere, and we have to be our own hospitals, doctors, police and firemen, entirely self-sufficient 24-7, as we can’t pick up the phone and call for help.”

All the same, it was a certain swashbuckling instinct that drew Phillips to the sea in the first place. After a wayward youth in Irish-American Boston, by 1974 he was earning a living as a cabbie, his life going nowhere, when a man in an expensive leather jacket clambered into his cab around 10 o’clock one morning, telling him: “I want booze and I want broads.” Upon being handed a $5 tip for the $5 ride to the nearest fleshpots, Phillips asked how his fare earned such a handsome living. “I’m a merchant mariner,” came the answer. “We carry cargo in ships.”

The cargo bit sounded dull, but the “booze and broads” extracurriculars sounded fun, so off Phillips went to Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Over the decades that followed, he fell in love with his day job too, travelling the world on three-month shifts, but also, eventually, raising a family at a 19th-century farmhouse back in Vermont.

The trip when he was hijacked, sailing from Oman to Mombasa, should have been routine: the inevitable row with his wife just before he left for sea, compensated for by the usual phone calls home, where he’d cheer her up with Barry White impressions. But by March 2009, the Indian Ocean was no longer the relaxed, easy place he’d sailed through many times before.

Hijackings had been skyrocketing since the previous year, with the pirates ranging hundreds of miles out to sea in so-called “mother ships”. Merchant vessels were beginning to kit themselves like floating fortresses, with high-pressure hoses, anti-piracy fences and audio guns that transmit a deafening sonic ring. As one sailor angrily complains in the film, merchant seamen “aren’t paid to fight pirates”. But on Phillips’s own vessel, they also had axes and lead pipes stockpiled – not that they’d be much use against AK-47s.

 

‘Just business’: pirates attack Tom Hanks in a scene from Captain Phillips

As Phillips puts it in his book: “It was like a lion and a herd of wildebeest on the African plain. You just hoped there was safety in numbers, because if the lion chose you, you were going to have a very, very bad day. And just as the lion looks for weakness – the slow, the lame, the young – pirates zeroed in on ships that looked defenceless.” His crew was also relatively unusual in being made up almost entirely of Americans, rather than the Filipinos, Indians, and other Third World nationals who account for most of the world’s one million commercial sailors these days. Wasn’t he worried from the outset?

“It’s true that American crews are a much smaller percentage these days, but we’d been doing that run for a year-and-a-half,” says Phillips, whose vessel was the first US-flagged ship to fall victim to piracy since the 19th century. “I’d always told my crew that being attacked was a matter of when, not if. But when you’re at sea, piracy is just one of the threats, and you deal with it.” The first few days went peacefully but anxiously, Phillips practising anti-piracy drills and scanning the latest hijack reports: 39 attempts in a single week. Then, one lunchtime, three fast-moving blips appeared on the radar, heading straight for the Alabama. It was three pirate skiffs, full of men with machine guns.

Phillips sped up and headed into heavier seas, slowing the pirates down with the waves in his wake. Knowing that they might be listening in, he also faked a message over the radio from a US Navy ship, saying that a helicopter gunship was just five minutes away. To his surprise and delight, the pirates gave up. But the next day, another skiff approached. This time, the sea was dead calm, preventing the Maersk Alabama from outrunning them. Soon, they were peppering the ship with bullets, Phillips trying to keep them at bay by firing distress flares.

The next thing, they had hooked a grappling ladder to the ship’s side and swarmed aboard. In the film, a pirate is soon pointing an AK-47 at Phillips’s chest, saying: “Relax, Captain, relax. Just business. No al-Qaeda”. So began Phillips’s acquaintance with the Leader, Tall Guy, Musso, and Young Guy, whose eyes lit up when they realised they had a ship full of Americans. The question for the pirates, though, was how to find them all. While Phillips and two others were on the bridge, the rest of the crew had hidden away in the ship’s 500ft-long hold, a labyrinth of passageways, cargo areas and engine works. Even in normal times, stowaways can hide there and simply never be found. And on this occasion, the area below deck was pitch dark after the crew disabled the emergency lights.

Despite being ordered at gunpoint to summon the rest of the crew back to the bridge, Phillips played for time until the Leader’s impatience got the better of him. Minus his weapon to prevent anyone seizing it, the Leader then headed down into the ship’s bowels to locate the crew himself. But the unfamiliar blackness proved to be their hunting ground, not his. As the Leader rounded a corner, Mike Perry, the ship’s chief engineer, grabbed him and put a knife to his throat, bundling him into a secure room where the rest of the crew were hiding.

Perry later said that he plucked up courage for the ambush by reminding himself of stories about pirates forcing kidnapped sailors to play Russian roulette, Deer Hunter style. Not long after, an unexpected message boomed out over the ship’s Tannoy. “Attention pirates. We have your buddy. We will exchange him for the captain.” Panicking, the remaining pirates agreed to a trade, sealed by $30,000 from the ship’s safe that Phillips offered them, so that they did not return to their bosses in Eyl empty-handed.

As their own skiff had been wrecked during the hijack, the deal was that they would depart in the ship’s motorised lifeboat, leaving the grappling ladder behind so that they could not get aboard again. But for that reason, the pirates insisted that the exchange be done on the lifeboat itself, once it was already lowered into the water. Phillips agreed, deciding that getting the rest of his crew freed was more important than the risk of the pirates breaking their word. It was, as he saw it, his captain’s duty. The pirates, though, had no such ethics. Sure enough, the moment the Leader was lowered into the lifeboat, they refused to let Phillips go.

“With hindsight, it was a mistake, but at least I got them off the ship,” says Phillips, whose actions were seen as heroic by some, and as foolhardy by others. “I also felt that, as it was just me, I would have a good chance of escaping at some point.”

The pirates had other ideas, heading off towards the Somali mainland. But so too did two US warships, which blockaded the lifeboat and ordered them to hand Phillips over. A three-day pressure-cooker siege ensued, with Phillips and the pirates stuck in hideously hot conditions in the lifeboat, a cramped, covered capsule.

One of the warships’ commanders managed to lure the Leader on board with the promise of a ransom. But with him gone, the rest started to panic, beating Phillips constantly and threatening to kill him. At one point, feeling faint and dizzy, he thought he was having a heart attack. “I couldn’t focus on anything, it was like my mind had let go,” he says. “I thought: ‘my heart’s giving out, this is how it happens’.”

Later, he scribbled a message to his family, realising it might be his last chance to say goodbye to them. Soon he was wishing that the warships would simply open up on the lifeboat with their 0.50 calibre machine guns, putting them all out of their misery. “I didn’t care if I died at that moment, I just wanted the whole thing over with.”

Instead, the ships’ response was rather more precise. After a long wait to get three clear shots at the pirates as the lifeboat bobbed around, a team of US Navy Seal snipers concealed on one of the warships saw their moment and pulled their triggers. “All of a sudden, I was sprayed with debris,” Phillips recalls. “At first I thought it was the pirates shooting each other. The next thing, a US Navy Seal slid down a rope and I could hear him asking me if it was safe. I flicked my head up and saw one of the pirates going into the death rattle, so I knew he was gone. The other two I never saw, as it was dark.”

Covered in his captors’ blood, Phillips was transferred to the USS Bainbridge, and eventually back to the US. So too was the Leader – real name Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse – who was later sentenced to 33 years in Indiana’s Terre Haute prison, a notoriously tough federal facility nicknamed the Terror Hut by inmates. Phillips has no plans to visit.

“The sentence was justified completely,” he says. “This was a guy who told me he had kidnapped and murdered another captain, and who told me that I was going to die in Somalia. He is just a thug who doesn’t care about other people. Yes, I’ve heard the stories about foreigners stealing Somalia’s fish, but I have sailed those waters, and believe me, you see a lot of fish. The fact is, piracy is a crime, and it’s a choice some people make. There has to be repercussions for their actions.”

Today, fortunately, piracy is on the wane, thanks largely to ships starting to carry armed guards. But not every hijack has a happy ending, or such a prompt one. The average hijack now lasts eight months. And to this day, around 100 sailors are still hostage, many simply abandoned by employers who did not bother with ransom insurance. Some have been in custody for up to three years, the pirates torturing them in a bid to put pressure on the ships’ owners. The horror stories that emerge from prolonged hijacks, meanwhile, read like something from Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, with sailors committing suicide and going mad. Those who are eventually released often suffer serious post-traumatic stress.

And what of Phillips? Did the hijacking change him? “Not really. People say ‘your life must feel great now’, but my life was great before,” he says. “What the hijacking taught me was that nothing is lost until we choose to give up, and we can all do a lot more than we think.” Including, it seems, returning to the scene of the crime.

When I spoke to Phillips, he was just back from sea again, and has even sailed near the Somali coast. The ship he was on was armed, but a few suspicious-looking skiffs did sniff around occasionally. Was he not tempted to stay at home in Vermont? “No, I still like being at sea, it’s what I’ve done for 34 years and anyway, the wife is happy to see me back to work,” he laughs. And so, the phone calls home continue. And, presumably, the Barry White impressions. That’s a captain’s duty for you.

One thought on “Punctuation, Quotation Marks and Capitals – Lots and lots of practice!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s