On a balmy day near noon on Tuesday, February 14, 1764 the East Indiaman ‘The Siren’ came to grief on Brutus Reef in the Sulu Sea.

Onboard a rich cargo of 250,000 cases of Ming Dynasty porcelain lay buried until a diver recovered a single plate in the mid 1980’s.

Roll on to 2002 in Singapore when the diver, fallen on hard times, sells the plate to an antique dealer for a high price.  Two teams, aware of the potential  rewards and dreaming of riches embark on marine surveys to find the shipwreck.

Expatriate geophysicist  Michael and his  teenage son, Alex  become involved in the Search for the Siren  in a race against a rival team led by Tong, a ruthless Clan leader and  collector of antique porcelain much to the dismay of Michael’s wife, Julie.  

But the Sulu Sea is the hunting ground of local pirate gangs and the brutal Abu Sayyaf terrorist group led by Khadaffy Janjalani. The remote area where the shipwreck lies buried is close to terrorist jungle camps on Basilan Island.

The Attack on the Askelad

Below follows an extract from the true account of the attack on the survey vessel Askelad. In 1999 I was onboard MV Askelad for a geophysical survey offshore Nigeria when our boat was attacked by 20 pirates. Two hostages were taken prisoner. This short story is my eye-witness account of what happened.

Can Michael’s team locate the precious cargo before they are attacked?

This fast-paced novel is located in many localities in SE Asia including Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Zamboanga and Tawi-Tawi Island. The struggle for an independent Mindanao by Abu Sayyaf  is one of continuing conflict.


When I read the report that the authorities had taken the crew of the survey vessel Askelad captive at gunpoint in Equatorial Guinea for straying into the country’s waters, I allowed myself a wry smile. Nine years earlier I had been on Askelad when pirates had attacked us in Nigeria.

The Ijaw youth stood in my cabin doorway and raised a viscous rusty stiletto knife as he advanced towards me. I tried to ignore the weapon, but as it was inches below my nose, this was difficult.

‘Got anything for me, Mister?’ I saw him glancing at my Seiko.

‘Nice watch.’ His greedy eyes were seeking more booty, even as I unfastened and passed it over.

Behind him, another pirate entered the room, like a vulture circling for the kill. Sandy, the Chief Surveyor was my cabin mate, and he came up beside me so we could deal with the problem. The nasty one with the knife diverted his attention to Sandy helping himself to music CDs and a Walkman from his bunk bed. The other man seemed out of place. He had no weapon and was polite. He rifled through my wash bag and took my toothbrush, perhaps a luxury item to him. His eyes lit up when he noticed my much worn out, old, battered black leather pilot bag. I guess cases carry prestige in the Delta region of Nigeria. I handed it over, removing the geological maps from inside...

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