Paleoanthropologist and Berkeley professor Tim White has been waiting for years to drill into the Gulf of Aden near the Indian Ocean seabed for ancient ashes from African volcanoes. By comparing the different layers in the sea core to those found on land, he hopes to be able to estimate the age of certain fossils, thus advancing our understanding of both human evolution and climate change.
But there’s a problem: Pirates have made it too dangerous to put a boat anywhere near the ash that White needs. Somali buccaneers claimed more than 3,740 crew members from 125 countries as victims between 2005 and 2012, according to the World Bank. Globally, the economic cost of piracy comes to $18 billion per year. And now, scientific research appears to be another casualty of the marauding bandits.