Robin DeWan is a musician, writer and conceptual artist living on Suomenlinna. He holds a degree in literature from the University of California.

IT’S THAT TIME of year again when the press begin to roll out a round-up of the annual top stories. No doubt they’ll touch upon the ongoing financial crisis and the purported recent turn around, the escalating wars, the swine flu pandemic, and here in Finland, the political party financing scandals, to name but a few. But my vote for the story of the year goes out to the strange and ongoing saga of the MV Arctic Sea. The Arctic Sea tale is not just odd by any standards, it represents a whole new kind of story – one in which reality imitates fiction.

The narrative of the Arctic Sea story goes something like this: Run of the mill cargo ship carrying timber from Finland to Algeria gets hijacked off the coast of Sweden in late July. The crew waits a day or two before they decide it might be a good idea to inform someone about it. They claim the hijackers have already split after damaging some equipment and roughing them up a bit. After passing through the English channel the ship goes “missing.” The Russian navy gets on the case, dispatches a fleet to find it, and eventually seizes the ship off the Cape Verde Islands. Most of the crew along with eight alleged hijackers are taken back to Russia and interrogated. A few days later the crew members are released and given a gag order carrying a penalty of up to seven years in prison for violation.

The Arctic Sea tale is not just odd
by any standards, it represents a
whole new kind of story – one in which
reality imitates fi ction.

All the reports, counter reports, claims of ransom demands, secret cargos, shady business addresses, and top-level involvement including the governments of Russia, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Israel and Iran, made for a thoroughly captivating serial. Oh, and let’s not forget that the ship is registered in Malta to add an extra element of conspiracy (think Knights of Malta). Modern piracy, gun running, secret organizations…with all this going for it who needs thrillers?

A plethora of questions pertaining to the incident remain: What was actually onboard – cruise missiles, timber, vodka… all of the above? The suspected hijackers claim they partied together with the crew the whole way. Why all the secrecy? That’s an immediate red flag that the official version is well off the mark. And where is the Arctic Sea today? A recent report stated that it will soon be once again on course to Algeria to deliver its payload. Hmm…It would take a skilled pulp-novelist to come up with a plot like this.

With details still surfacing and outlandish theories being floated, the saga has truly captured the imagination of the public. I believe it’s a model for a type of news story of the future. Reality and fiction are blending and bending like never before. Writers once looked to the external world for ideas. Now the tables are turning and news is mirroring fiction. Reality TV was only the beginning. The Arctic Sea story raises the bar for intriguing news content. The question is not so much Arctic Sea where are you? but Arctic Sea what have you done?

Robin DeWan