What Happened Onboard the ‘Nautilus’?

The premises of Peter Madsen, who is accused of killing Swedish journalist Kim Wall. (Ole Jensen/Corbis/Getty Images)

For journalist May Jeong, Kim Wall was more than a colleague, she was a friend, a compatriot; she was on the frontlines of the great battle for stories, for freelance assignments, for respect as a reporter. “I only have questions” Wall texted Jeong, “about agency as a woman…and if we will ever be free, no matter what we do.”

At Wired, Jeong traces the final voyage of the Nautilus, the private submarine built by Peter Masden, the subject of a story Wall was working on. When Wall didn’t come home after visiting onboard with Masden, the police began a search that would eventually lead to the discovery of her violent murder.

Jeong travels to Copenhagen to find out what happened to Wall, and through her reporting she also finds a way to move through the grief of her friend’s death.

In the days after she disappeared, I heard people ask questions that betrayed a misunderstanding about reporting—couldn’t she have done the interview over the phone?—and casual sexism—why was she there alone so late? On nights when I couldn’t sleep, I would end up on internet chat rooms where the comments sections filled me with rage: “She is a woman—how could she go alone with a man she does not know?” And: “She had skirt and pantyhose—how could she egg on a poor uncle in that way.”

In Afghanistan, where I worked mostly with men, I never wanted to show any sign of weakness or fear. In reporting this story, my editor made me promise that I wouldn’t put myself in harm’s way. But much of reporting is just that—routinely putting yourself in uncomfortable positions. In the four months I spent on this story, I did things that in other circumstances might have seemed foolish. I went on long drives at night with sources. I met strangers on their doorsteps and entered their homes. In stepping onto that submarine, Kim was doing what any reporter onto a good story would have done.

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