Storms, high seas, and lost lives at sea. This book was hell of a surprise…
I picked up The Perfect Storm in a marine-fueled frenzy of book buying. I hadn’t seen the movie, and while I actually like George Clooney (especially in Out of Sight and O Brother Where Art Thou), I I didn’t fancy the literally equivalent of a Hollywood heroic back-slapper.
The Perfect Storm was a surprise. Junger has successfully created a semi-speculative journalistic account of the last hours of the Andrea Gail, a swordfishing boat operating out Gloucester, Maine. The ship was caught in what meteorologists termed The Perfect Storm – in that it characterised exactly the components of a textbook weather phenomenon.
Junger begins with biographical accounts of the crew, and their lives in drink-fueled Gloucester, followed by accounts of their farewells as they head off in their final voyage. From there, we learn about the boats, the biology of the Grand Banks, the history and economy of industrial fishing, how storms work, modern navigation and the lifestyles of fisherman. All of this serves to create understanding of why the Andrea Gail was out there in the first place.
As the story builds, so does the storm, and Junger documents the attempts by other fishing boats to radio the Andrea Gail, and the heartbreaking waiting that had to be endured by the wives, girlfriends, parents and children.
The Andrea Gail wasn’t the only tragedy – there’s a startling account of an Air National Guard helicopter crew ditching in appalling conditions – trying to time their jumps into the sea for the crest of each wave, and their subsequent fight for survival.
The Perfect Storm has it all. While the book is laden with facts, it’s also darkly romantic. It’s about our fragile environment, the merciless sea and sky, the hubris of mankind, the vulnerability of even the sturdiest ship, and financial greed. It’s about heroism, and impossible situations and decisions. Most of all, it’s about our relationship with the ocean, and how easy it is for us to wreck the sea, and for it to destroy us. Sobering stuff. Recommended.
The Perfect Storm (Amazon.com)
The Perfect Storm (Amazon.co.uk)