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Not Just For Crimes: The 5 Most Polite Acts Ever Committed In International Waters

It’s unfortunate that international waters have such a bad reputation. Sure, no country has jurisdiction over crimes committed out there on the open ocean…but that doesn’t mean crime is the ONLY thing that happens there. Need proof? Here are 5 of the most polite acts ever committed in international waters.

  1. In 1994, a Carnival Cruise ship that sailed past a naked man floating in the middle of the Atlantic all alone pulled over to see if he needed a ride: Though this Carnival cruise liner could’ve easily ignored the naked man floating several hundred miles out at sea and continued on their merry way to a luxurious week in the Bahamas, the crew thoughtfully chose to stop and ask if he was lost. Fortunately, the naked man responded, “Nope, I’m fine!” and respectfully declined their offer of assistance while expressing gratitude for their being so considerate. The two parties then bid each other adieu and went their separate ways, having just proven that courtesy thrives in international waters in equal measure to crime!
  2. In 1937, a Chinese warship stopped to let a squid pass in front of it, even though the ship had the right of way: In the heat of the Second Sino-Japanese war, the crew on the Chinese warship Qinqdao demonstrated that chivalry was alive and well in the unclaimed outskirts of the East China Sea when a very slow old squid attempted to pass in front of them. Though the squid was cutting off the warship Qingdao, politeness prevailed: the destroyer’s crew members voted to bring the ship to a full stop so the squid could pass unharmed. Though the Qingdao was then caught off guard by the Japanese naval fleet, which quickly sank the Qingdao with dozens of torpedoes, they nevertheless set a fine standard for manners on the high seas. Next time you associate international waters with crime, remember the gentility of the warship Qingdao!
  3. In 2008, Somali pirates forcibly boarded a U.S. container ship just to wave at the captain: It can’t be overstated how massive the open sea is. It goes on seemingly forever in all directions—and yet, this intrepid group of Somali pirates went out of their way to track down a U.S.-registered cargo ship, force their way onboard with automatic weapons, and give a friendly wave to the captain from five feet away! It’s stories like these that make you wonder if politeness flourishes more in lawless waters than anywhere on land.
  4. In 2015, an Indian woman on a speedboat informed the crew of an offshore Saudi oil rig that one of their underwater pipelines had spilled over 200,000 gallons of crude oil in the Arabian Sea, but in a way that was super non-judgmental—more of a polite heads-up than anything—and then promised not to tell anyone else about it, bid them her best wishes, gave them her cell phone number in case they needed help cleaning up all the oil, and sped off into the open ocean: You hear plenty of cautionary tales about what criminals do out in international waters, but people rarely mention the kind Indian woman with the speedboat. In fact, she stopped by the oil rig again on her speedboat the very next day, just to say hi, see how the crew was doing with the spill, and ask if they needed anything. It just doesn’t get more polite than that!
  5. In 1915, the captain of the RMS Lusitania declined to listen to gossip about Germany’s plan to torpedo his ship: With true politeness comes a distaste for gossip: a refusal to spread slanderous rumors and badmouth others even when it might seem fun to do so. There’s no better example of this type of courtesy than Captain Daniel Dow of the RMS Lusitania, who gracefully withdrew from any conversation concerning the dozens of gossip-y telegraphs his ship received about a German U-boat preparing to attack his vessel. Considering how little excitement there is out in the middle of the ocean, you have to respect the restraint Captain Dow showed to not engage in such scandalous hearsay during his voyage across the Atlantic. Instead, he did the mature thing, which was to wait to pass judgment until Germany had actually attacked the Lusitania, rather than make assumptions about their character based on whisperings heard through the grapevine. Here’s to Captain Dow for being a stellar example of politeness outside of territorial waters!