The Outlaw Sea


William Langewiesche (pronounced:long-gah-vee-shuh)[1] (born June 12, 1955)[2] is an American author and journalist who was also a professional airplane pilot for many years. Since 2006 he has been the international correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine.


William Langewiesche is currently the international correspondent for the magazine Vanity Fair, a position he has held since 2006. Prior to that, he was the national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly magazine where he was nominated for eight consecutive National Magazine Awards. He has written articles covering a wide range of topics from shipbreaking, wine critics, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, modern ocean piracy, nuclear proliferation, and the World Trade Center cleanup.

Langewiesche grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, and attended college in California, where he received a degree in cultural anthropology from Stanford University.[3] He spent much of his time on various jobs flying airplanes, a skill he had acquired because of his family background.[4]

After college Langewiesche moved to New York City and went to work as a writer for Flying, a large-circulation publication for general aviation pilots.[3] While there he wrote technical reports on the flight characteristics of various airplanes, and profiles of people. In his mid-twenties, he quit the job in order to write books—one non-fiction, and two novels—none of which were published.[3]

He continued to travel and write, supporting himself by flying airplanes. The travels eventually took Langewiesche to the most remote parts of the Sahara desert and sub-Saharan West Africa.[3] This became the subject of a cover story for The Atlantic Monthly, in 1991, and later of a book titled Sahara Unveiled.[5] The Atlantic sent Langewiesche to many parts of the world and increasingly into conflict zones.[5] In 2006, while living in Baghdad to cover the Iraq war, Langewiesche left The Atlantic and went to work for Vanity Fair.[4]

After the attacks of 9/11, Langewiesche was the only journalist given full unrestricted access to the World Trade Center site.[5] He stayed there for nearly six months and produced "American Ground", a serialized report in The Atlantic Monthly.[4] "American Ground" became a New York Times national bestselling book.[6]

Langewiesche's 2007 article "Jungle Law" involved him in the controversy surrounding Chevron Corporation and Steven R. Donziger.[7][8]


Langewiesche is the son of Wolfgang Langewiesche, author of Stick and Rudder. He lives in New York and France.



  • 2007 National Magazine Award for Public Interest for Rules of Engagement
  • 2002 National Magazine Award for Reporting for The Crash of EgyptAir 990


  • 2008 National Magazine Award for Reporting for City of Fear
  • 2007 Michael Kelly Award.
  • 2006 National Magazine Award for Reporting for The Wrath of Khan
  • 2005 Lettre Ulysses Award for The Outlaw Sea
  • 2005 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing for A Sea Story
  • 2004 National Magazine Award for Reporting for Columbia's Last Flight
  • 2004 Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage for American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center
  • 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center
  • 2002 National Book Critic’s Circle Award for American Ground: Unbuilding The World Trade Center
  • 2001 National Magazine Award for Profiles for The Million-Dollar Nose
  • 2000 National Magazine Award for Profiles for Eden: A Gated Community
  • 1999 National Magazine Award for Reporting for The Lessons of ValuJet 592
  • 1992 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing for The World in Its Extreme


  • Langewiesche, William (1993). Cutting for sign. New York: Pantheon Books. 
  • — (1996). Sahara Unveiled : A Journey Across the Desert. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-679-42982-4. 
  • — (1998). Inside the Sky: A Meditation on Flight. USA: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-679-42983-2. 
  • — (2002). American Ground : Unbuilding the World Trade Center. New York: North Point Press. ISBN 0-86547-582-2. 
  • — (2004). The Outlaw Sea : A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime. New York: North Point Press. ISBN 0-86547-581-4. 
  • — (2007). The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 0-374-10678-9. 
  • — (2009). Fly by Wire: The Geese, the Glide, the Miracle on the Hudson. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 
  • — (2010). Aloft: Thoughts on the Experience of Flight. New York: Vingtage. ISBN 0-307-74148-6. 
  • — (2012). Finding the Devil: Darkness, Light, and the Untold Story of the Chilean Mine Disaster. Byliner. 

Essays and reporting

  • Langewiesche, William (November 25, 1990). "Riding the Mali Express to Dakar". New York Times. Retrieved March 29, 2011. 
  • — (November 1991). "The World in Its Extreme". The Atlantic
  • — (November 1993). "Vacations in the Sahara". The Atlantic
  • — (December 1993). "The Turn". The Atlantic
  • — (August 1994). "Turabi's Law". The Atlantic
  • — (October 1997). "Slam and Jam". The Atlantic
  • — (February 1998). "Invisible Men". The New Yorker
  • — (March 1998). "The Lessons of ValuJet 592". The Atlantic
  • — (June 1999). "Eden: A Gated Community". The Atlantic
  • Langewiesche, William (August 2000). "The Shipbreakers". The Atlantic
  • — (December 2000). "The Million-Dollar Nose". The Atlantic
  • — (April 2001). "The Profits of Doom". The Atlantic
  • — (October 2001). "Peace is Hell". The Atlantic
  • — (November 2001). "The Crash of EgyptAir 990". The Atlantic
  • — (December 2001). "Storm Island". The Atlantic
  • — (October 2002). "American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center, Part III: The Dance of the Dinosaurs". The Atlantic
  • — (September 2002). "American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center, Part II: The Rush to Recover". The Atlantic
  • — (July–August 2002). "American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center, Part I: The Inner World". The Atlantic
  • — (September 2003). "Anarchy At Sea". The Atlantic
  • — (November 2003). "Columbia's Last Flight". The Atlantic
  • — (January–February 2004). "A Two-Planet Species". The Atlantic
  • — (May 2004). "A Sea Story". The Atlantic
  • — (November 2004). "Welcome to the Green Zone". The Atlantic
  • — (January–February 2005). "Letter From Baghdad". The Atlantic
  • — (March 2005). "The Accuser". The Atlantic
  • — (May 2005). "Hotel Baghdad". The Atlantic
  • — (June 2005). "Ziad for the Defense". The Atlantic
  • — (November 2005). "The Wrath of Khan". The Atlantic
  • — (January–February 2006). "The Point of No Return". The Atlantic
  • — (November 2006). "Rules of Engagement". Vanity Fair
  • — (December 2006). "How To Get A Nuclear Bomb". The Atlantic
  • — (April 2007). "City of Fear". Vanity Fair
  • — (May 2007). "Jungle Law". Vanity Fair
  • — (November 2007). "The Mega-Bunker of Baghdad". Vanity Fair
  • — (February 2008). "A Face in the Crowd". Vanity Fair
  • — (April 2008). "Beijing's Olympic Makeover". Vanity Fair
  • — (May 2008). "Stealing Weather". Vanity Fair
  • — (December 2008). "House of War". Vanity Fair
  • — (January 2009). "The Devil at 37,000 Feet". Vanity Fair
  • — (April 2009). "The Pirate Latitudes". Vanity Fair
  • — (June 2009). "Anatomy of a Miracle". Vanity Fair
  • — (December 26, 2009). "Towers of Strength". New York Times. Retrieved March 29, 2011. 
  • Langewiesche, William (February 2010). "The Distant Executioner". Vanity Fair
  • — (February 2011). "The Wave-Maker". Vanity Fair
  • — (May 2012). "The Camorra Never Sleeps". Vanity Fair
  • — (December 2012). "The Expendables". Vanity Fair
  • — (May 2013). "The Man Who Pierced the Sky". Vanity Fair
  • — (October 2013). "What Lies Beneath". Vanity Fair
  • — (April 2014). "The Chaos Company". Vanity Fair
  • — (October 2014). "The Human Factor". Vanity Fair
  • — (December 2014). "Salvage Beast". Vanity Fair
  • — (March 2015). "Everything You Need to Know About Flying Virgin Galactic". Vanity Fair
  • — (June 2015). "How One U.S. Soldier Blew the Whistle on a Cold-Blooded War Crime". Vanity Fair
  • — (November 2015). "Can a French Friar End the 21st-Century Slave Trade?". Vanity Fair
  • — (October 2016). "Welcome to the Dark Net, a Wilderness Where Invisible World Wars Are Fought and Hackers Roam Free". Vanity Fair
  • — (June 2017). "How Extreme Heat Could Leave Swaths of the Planet Uninhabitable". Vanity Fair
  • — (January 2018). "The 10-Minute Mecca Stampede That Made History". Vanity Fair
  • — (April 2018). ""The Clock Is Ticking": Inside the Worst U.S. Maritime Disaster in Decades". Vanity Fair
  1. ^ Scott Sherman (2002). "What makes a serious magazine soar?". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  2. ^ William Langewiesche, AVweb » The World's Premier Independent Aviation News Resource:
  3. ^ a b c d
  4. ^ a b c
  5. ^ a b c
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
External links
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • San Francisco Chronicle Feature Profile
  • William Langewiesche at The New New Journalism website
  • William Langewiesche at FSG
  • William Langewiesche biosketch at the Atlantic Monthly website
  • William Langewiesche Ulysses Award bio
  • Audio/video recordings of William Langewiesche discussing his book The Nuclear Poor; from the University of Chicago's World Beyond the Headlines series


  • Interview with Wendy Murray Dec 1, 2013
  • Interview with Neal Thompson March 8, 2010
  • Interview with Media Bistro July 25, 2007
  • Video interview with Stephen Colbert May 14, 2007
  • Video interview with Charlie Rose September 10, 2002
  • The Eventualist: William Langewiesche on The Atomic Bazaar and Facing our Worst Fear, by Nancy Rommelmann July 25, 2007

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