During 32 years of fieldwork in the deserts of Ethiopia, Tim White, the eminent American paleoanthropologist, has brazened through every conceivable obstacle to his research into human origins.
Flash floods have marooned his vehicles in hip-deep pools of mud. Grazing wars between nomads have blocked access to promising fossil beds. And campfire visits by snakes and tarantulas are so routine they rank as minor nuisances.
Yet nothing has stymied White’s pursuit of knowledge—or thwarted his scientific ambitions—like the hard-eyed men in flip-flop sandals who, valuing doubloons above Darwin, set sail hundreds of miles away in skiffs stocked with machine guns and rope ladders: Somali pirates.