By Taylor Forrest
The average commercial sword fishing trip lasts approximately a month. The fishermen on these trips spend 20-hour days on deck, racing to catch as many fish as possible. They race to get back home to their loved ones. Other times they race for another reason entirely.
They race for their lives.
In 1991, the remnants of a tropical hurricane and a nor ’east storm met on the seas, feeding on each other to create a force to be reckoned with. Damage totaled more than $200 million with a death toll of 13. The infamous gale of the century was later dubbed, “The Unnamed Storm.”
The rare intensity of the storm later inspired a nonfiction book so gripping that it was on the New York Times Bestsellers list for more than three years.
“The Perfect Storm,” published in 1997, was written by American journalist, Sebastian Junger. The captivating book later inspired a blockbuster film “The Perfect Storm,” starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg.
Junger, born in 1962 in Belmont, Mass., wrote two more books, and wrote and directed several documentary films, including “Restrepo” and “Korengal.”
“The Perfect Storm” focuses on the desperate crew of the Andrea Gail, a commercial sword fishing boat that was caught at sea during the rugged storm.
Junger relies on interviews with family members, friends, and corresponding fishermen also caught in the gale to piece together the grim and treacherous voyage of the Andrea Gail before it’s crew sailed straight into the turmoil.
While Junger focuses on the Andrea Gail, he tells several action-packed tales that will have you either crying or flipping to the next page to devour more. The book, while entertaining, is also informative with meteorological data and details of that ghastly storm.
Junger also subtly twists in the lasting history of fishing to help the reader better understand the imminent dangers that fishermen face at sea. The recounts of several fisherman show the perils they face- drowning, sharks, hypothermia or even being caught on their own hooks and being plucked out to sea to dangle like large bait.
The book does an excellent job portraying the events of the “Unnamed Storm,” but also shows the immense gamble fisherman take when they step on that boat at port. If they fish well for the month, then they get a huge payout. But there is always the risk that they won’t make it home.
Junger packs detail, action and despair into 225 pages. Each page will leave you riding waves of emotion. The fact-packed pages will have your mind churning for hours.
After reading this book one thing is for sure. The next time that you take a bite of fish and internalize the dank taste of the sea, you will think about the fisherman that caught your dinner.
Junger will be making a visit to campus this semester. He will be giving a docking lecture on March 11 at 11 a.m. . Previous to this, there will be a screening of “Restrepo” on Feb. 17 at 7 p.m.
Taylor Forrest is a freshman majoring in communication. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.