Read The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea Online

Authors: Sebastian Junger

Tags: #Autobiography, #Social Science, #Movie novels, #Storms, #Natural Disasters, #Swordfish Fishing, #Customs & Traditions, #Transportation, #Northeast Storms - New England, #Nature, #Motion picture plays, #New England, #Specific Groups, #Gloucester (Mass.), #Northeast Storms, #Fisheries, #Ecosystems & Habitats - Oceans & Seas, #Tropical Storm Grace; 1997, #Specific Groups - General, #Ecosystems & Habitats, #Alex Award, #Science, #Earth Sciences, #Oceans & Seas, #Hurricane Grace, #Ships & Shipbuilding, #Historical, #Hurricane Grace; 1991, #1991, #Ecology, #1997, #Meteorology & Climatology, #Tropical Storm Grace, #Halloween Nor'easter, #Halloween Nor'easter; 1991, #General, #Weather, #Biography & Autobiography, #Biography

The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea

BOOK: The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea
9.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


"Ferociously dramatic and vividly written. . . .
The Perfect Storm
is not just the best book of the summer. It's an indelible experience."

Entertainment Weekly

"You know from the start that the
Andrea Gail
is doomed, but Junger keeps the suspense level high nevertheless, putting you on-board and making the lure of fishing understandable, the fate of these men memorable."

Men's Journal

"One powerful piece of journalism. ... A high-seas adventure complete with romance and heartbreak, heart-stopping danger and thrilling rescues."

Houston Chronicle

"Harrowing, relentless . . . and thoroughly enjoyable. Sebastian Junger's chronicle of a tragedy never fails to thrill. The perfect book for the beach. It is the skillful telling of this tale that makes it so compelling."

Kansas City Star

"Powerful. . . . Gripping."

New York Times

"There is nothing imaginary about Junger's book; it is all terrifyingly, awesomely real."

Los Angeles Times

"Among the most important books ever written about the sea. Using gripping narrative and mesmerizing detail, Sebastian Junger's first book will make you respect the power of the ocean. Incredible imagery. . . . For anyone who sails, boats, swims, or even takes a ferry ride, this book is a must read."

Waterbury Republican

"Rich, compassionate characterization, as well as taut, suspenseful prose. A tale that doesn't skimp on facts, yet keeps you turning pages from beginning to end."

Seattle Times

"Riveting.... The natural upheaval holds center stage and acts as a character, but the story converges upon human beings— in this case, the six-man crew of the doomed Gloucester swordfishing boat
Andrea Gail.
Plausible and affecting."

Boston Globe

"A thrilling read. . . . Junger masterfully handles his account of that storm and its devastation."

Publishers Weekly,
starred review

"Takes readers into the heart of the maelstrom and shows nature's splendid and dangerous havoc at its utmost. Every boater is drawn to storm-at-sea stories, and this one beats them all. ... Junger treats readers to some splendidly vivid writing and imbues the story with all the suspense it deserves."

Philadelphia Inquirer

"An important work to be especially appreciated by local people. . . . An impressive account and an incredible read about the place we call home."

Gloucester Daily Times

"The book builds as the storm builds, full of wonderful detailed and to-the-point information, always powered by a stern suspense."


"A harrowing tale of tragedy and struggle, of great heroics, and of circumstances and situations beyond the control of any of the players."


"During the long drawn-out and wholly convincing climaxes one reads with the most intense concern, anxiety and concentration; and if one knows anything at all about the sea one feels the absolutely enormous strength of the hurricane winds and the incredibly towering mass of the hundred-foot waves."

—Patrick O'Brian

"A fascinating book, not just about a storm, but about the hard-drinking, fatalistic lives of commercial fishermen and the families and friends they leave behind with each dangerous voyage."

Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Spellbindingly captured . . . Junger's fine dramatic style is complemented by a wealth of details that flesh out the story. . . . Reading this book is likely to make the would-be sailor feel both awed and a little frightened by nature's remorseless power."

Kirkus Reviews,
starred review

"The pages of this book crunch with salt.. . . Good reading."


"A vivid and damp-chill-to-the-bone account. . . . Convincing. . . . Whether he's tackling the mechanics of waves, the dangers of swordfishing, the construction of the ship or the inexact art of navigation, Junger knows how to use a precise detail or tight anecdote to make a point."

Detroit Free Press

"A terrifying, edifying read. Like victims of a perfect crime, readers of
The Perfect Storm
are first seduced into caring for the book's doomed characters, then compelled to watch them carried into the maw of a meteorological hell. And all the while, Sebastian Junger's compassionate, intelligent voice instructs us effortlessly on the sea life of the sword-fisherman, the physics of a sinking steel ship, and the details of death by drowning."

—Dava Sobel, author of

"A journalistic triumph, the perfect meeting of the awesome power of a storm at sea and our own fascination with it."

Arizona Republic






Insert credits: Pages 1 (bottom), 2, 3, 4 (bottom), 6, 8 © TEUN VOETEN/HH; pages 4 (top), 5 courtesy of the Crow's Nest; pages 1 (top), 7 courtesy of the
Gloucester Daily Times.

A hardcover edition of this book was published in 1997 by W.W. Norton & Company. 

It is reprinted here by arrangement with W.W. Norton & Company.

THE PERFECT STORM. Copyright © 1997 by Sebastian Junger. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.

HarperCollins books may be purchased for educational, business, or sales promotional use. For information please write: Special Markets Department, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.

First HarperPaperbacks edition published 1998. First HarperPerennial edition published 1999.

Book design and illustration by Margaret M. Wagner Map by Paul J. Pugliese

ISBN 0-06-097747-7

OO OI O2 03 /RRD IO 9

Scanned and converted by Kelzan!

04/15/2003 - Kelzan - Version 1.0





the last days of six men who disappeared at sea presented some obvious problems for me. On the one hand, I wanted to write a completely factual book that would stand on its own as a piece of journalism. On the other hand, I didn't want the narrative to asphyxiate under a mass of technical detail and conjecture. I toyed with the idea of fictionalizing minor parts of the story—conversations, personal thoughts, day-to-day routines—to make it more readable, but that risked diminishing the value of whatever facts I
able to determine. In the end I wound up sticking strictly to the facts, but in as wide-ranging a way as possible. If I didn't know exactly what happened aboard the doomed boat, for example, I would interview people who had been through similar situations, and survived. Their experiences, I felt, would provide a fairly good description of what the six men on the
Andrea Gail
had gone through, and said, and perhaps even felt.

As a result, there are varying kinds of information in the book. Anything in direct quotes was recorded by me in a formal interview, either in person or on the telephone, and was altered as little as possible for grammar and clarity. All dialogue is based on the recollection of people who are still alive, and appears in dialogue form without quotation marks.
dialogue was made up. Radio conversations are also based on people's recollections, and appear in italics in the text. Quotes from published material are in italics, and have occasionally been condensed to better fit the text. Technical discussions of meteorology, wave motion, ship stability, etc., are based on my own library research and are generally not referenced, but I feel compelled to recommend William Van Dorn's
The Oceanography of Seamanship
as a comprehensive and immensely readable text on ships and the sea.

In short, I've written as complete an account as possible of something that can never be fully known. It is exactly that unknowable element, however, that has made it an interesting book to write and, I hope, to read. I had some misgivings about calling it
The Perfect Storm,
but in the end I decided that the intent was sufficiently clear. I use
in the meteorological sense: a storm that could not possibly have been worse. I certainly mean no disrespect to the men who died at sea or the people who still grieve for them.

My own experience in the storm was limited to standing on Gloucester's Back Shore watching thirty-foot swells advance on Cape Ann, but that was all it took. The next day I read in the paper that a Gloucester boat was feared lost at sea, and I clipped the article and stuck it in a drawer. Without even knowing it, I had begun to write
The Perfect Storm.






ONE midwinter day off the coast of Massachusetts, the crew of a mackerel schooner spotted a bottle with a note in it. The schooner was on Georges Bank, one of the most dangerous fishing grounds in the world, and a bottle with a note in it was a dire sign indeed. A deckhand scooped it out of the water, the sea grass was stripped away, and the captain uncorked the bottle and turned to his assembled crew: "On Georges Bank with our cable gone our rudder gone and leaking. Two men have been swept away and all hands have been given up as our cable is gone and our rudder is gone. The one that picks this up let it be known. God have mercy on us."

The note was from the
a boat that had set sail from Gloucester the year before. She hadn't been heard from since. A boat that parts her cable off Georges careens helplessly along until she fetches up in some shallow water and gets pounded to pieces by the surf. One of the
s crew must have wedged himself against a bunk in the fo'c'sle and written furiously beneath the heaving light of a storm lantern. This was the end, and everyone on the boat would have known it. How do men act on a sinking ship? Do they hold each other? Do they pass around the whisky? Do they cry?

This man wrote; he put down on a scrap of paper the last moments of twenty men in this world. Then he corked the bottle and threw it overboard. There's not a chance in hell, he must have thought. And then he went below again. He breathed in deep. He tried to calm himself. He readied himself for the first shock of sea.


It's no fish ye're buying, it's men's lives.

The Antiquary,
Chapter II

fall rain slips down through the trees and the smell of ocean is so strong that it can almost be licked off the air. Trucks rumble along Rogers Street and men in t-shirts stained with fishblood shout to each other from the decks of boats. Beneath them the ocean swells up against the black pilings and sucks back down to the barnacles. Beer cans and old pieces of styrofoam rise and fall and pools of spilled diesel fuel undulate like huge iridescent jellyfish. The boats rock and creak against their ropes and seagulls complain and hunker down and complain some more. Across Rogers Street and around the back of the Crow's Nest, through the door and up the cement stairs, down the carpeted hallway and into one of the doors on the left, stretched out on a double bed in room number twenty-seven with a sheet pulled over him, Bobby Shatford lies asleep.

BOOK: The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea
9.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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