A True Story of Men Against the Sea
by Sebastian Junger
Reviewed by Tom Cronmiller
"She's comin' on boys, and she's comin' on strong." That was the last radio transmission from the captain of the Andrea Gail, a 72 foot sword fishing boat that disappeared off the coast of Nova Scotia in October of 1991. The "she" is a storm system that Sebastion Junger describes in The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against The Sea.
The perfect storm, perfect in Junger's view because it could not have been any worse, was caused by the convergence of a hurricane moving up the East Coast from Bermuda, a massive cold front moving down from Canada, and a storm system building up and moving east from the Great Lakes. When these separate systems came together, the resulting mess of weather saw frequent waves of 75 feet, occasionally 100 feet, and sustained winds of 75 miles per hour, gusting to an estimated 80 to 120 miles per hour.
Junger personalizes the storm by following its effects on three main groups of people. He recreates the voyage of the Andrea Gail. His recreation is based on interviews with the friends and families of the crew, interviews with crews of nearby boats, and interviews with people who have survived in similar situations. He also spends some time describing the voyage and eventual rescue of three people on a 32 foot sailboat. Finally, he tells the story of a couple of groups of Air National Guard rescue teams
Adding to these stories, Junger intersperses short passages on related topics including the history of commercial fishing in the area, some of the physics of large weather systems and how boats react to such extreme conditions, and the changing technologies and dangers of commercial fishing. In all of these passages, and others, Junger does a good job of including enough information to provide a background while not including so much detail that it detracts from more personal stories. Many of these related topics would make interesting books or articles by themselves.
I enjoyed reading the book. The history and the science are interesting, the descriptions of the storm are impressive and the stories of commercial fishermen and the rescue teams leave you with a respect for their professions.
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