From Noah to the sinking of the whaleship Essex to The Perfect Storm, maritime disaster stories have kept audiences riveted in accounts recorded on the written page. But in the Youtube and reality TV era, and particularly with the immense popularity of Deadliest Catch, the written word has some stiff competition. It is against these outlets that Kalee Thompson’s new book Deadliest Sea must hold up. And it does. In a fast-paced 289 pages, Deadliest Sea delivers the goods its readers will crave.
Thompson originally wrote about the Coast Guard rescue operation launched for the crew of the fishing boat Alaska Ranger for an article in Popular Mechanics. From there she had the foundations for this book. Thanks to Thompson’s heavy-duty reporting, Deadliest Sea offers a depth of background and information that would be impossible to reproduce in a video or television format. The book brings together the backgrounds of both the Alaska Ranger crew and their rescuers, and how they all intersect in a singular dire situation.
With all the reportorial detail, the book also has the requisite riveting moments that captivate even despite knowing the eventual outcome. A favorite passage:
Ryan’s mind was racing. He was pretty sure he’d heard the ship’s officers talking to the Warrior. The other FCA boat would be on its way, but would they have relayed the message to the Coast Guard? If they did, the Coasties would be coming all the way from Kodiak, Ryan thought. That was so far, hundreds of miles away. It was still dark. Would it be easier to spot him at night, or during the day? he wondered. Maybe at night. His strobe light was still flashing. He thought about how he’d look from the sky. Would they see the suit, the light? Jesus Christ, how long could he stay like this?
The waves were huge: twenty-footers, Ryan guessed. From the deck of the ship, seas this size wouldn’t be any sort of spectacle. It was a different story when you were submerged in the goddamn things. He couldn’t keep the freezing spray out of his nose and eyes, the only parts of his body that weren’t protected by the suit. What if no one was coming?”
It’s a scenario anyone who has taken even a day trip out of sight of land has contemplated, and all the details, and the ensuing Coast Guard rescue, come to life in this book.