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The Last Fish Tale
by Mark Kurlansky
Starred Review. Bestselling author Kurlansky (Cod; The Big Oyster) provides a delightful, intimate history and contemporary portrait of the quintessential northeastern coastal fishing town: Gloucester, Mass., on Cape Anne. Illustrated with his own beautifully executed drawings, Kurlansky's book vividly depicts the contemporary tension between the traditional fishing trade and modern commerce, which in Gloucester means beach-going tourists. One year ago, a beach preservation group enraged fishermen by seeking to harvest 105 acres of prime fishing ground for sand to deposit on the shoreline. Wealthy yacht owners compete with fishermen for prime dockage, driving up prices. Fishermen also contend with federal limits on their catches in an effort to maintain sustainable fisheries. But while cod are protected from extinction, the fishermen are not. Some boats must go 100 or more miles out to sea—a danger for small boats with few crew members. Tragedies abound, while one, that of the swordfish boat Andrea Gail, documented by Sebastian Junger in A Perfect Storm, brought even more tourists to Gloucester. (Publishers Weekly)
The Perfect Storm
by Sebastian Junger
Meteorologists called the storm that hit North America's eastern seaboard in October 1991 a "perfect storm" because of the rare combination of factors that created it. For everyone else, it was perfect hell. In The Perfect Storm, author Sebastian Junger conjures for the reader the meteorological conditions that created the "storm of the century" and the impact the storm had on many of the people caught in it. Chief among these are the six crew members of the swordfish boat the Andrea Gail, all of whom were lost 500 miles from home beneath roiling seas and high waves. Working from published material, radio dialogues, eyewitness accounts, and the experiences of people who have survived similar events, Junger attempts to re-create the last moments of the Andrea Gail as well as the perilous high-seas rescues of other victims of the storm.
Like a Greek drama, The Perfect Storm builds slowly and inexorably to its tragic climax. The book weaves the history of the fishing industry and the science of predicting storms into the quotidian lives of those aboard the Andrea Gail and of others who would soon find themselves in the fury of the storm. Junger does a remarkable job of explaining a convergence of meteorological and human events in terms that make them both comprehensible and unforgettable. (Amazon.com)
Essex Shipbuilding (MA) (Images of America)
by Ellis Peckham
For three centuries, shipbuilding flourished in Essex, a small village wrapped around a shallow tidal estuary that flows into Ipswich Bay. From sturdy little Chebacco boats to the tough but graceful fishing schooners that plied the Grand Banks, Essex vessels became known throughout the maritime world as swift and strong fishermen, and Essex shipbuilding became synonymous with craftsmanship of the highest order. More than four thousand ships slid down the ways destined for ports such as Gloucester, Boston, and New York.
By the middle of the twentieth century, however, the industry had vanished and this extraordinary chapter in American maritime history was closed. Essex Shipbuilding recalls an era when dozens of vessels in different stages of construction lined the Essex River and the shipyard gangs worked six days a week, year-round, in any weather. Featuring the photograph collection of Dana A. Story, Essex Shipbuilding illustrates the firms of A.D. Story and Tarr & James, who built the famous racing schooners Mayflower, Columbia, and Gertrude L. Thebaud, and the high-lining fishermen Elsie and Adventure. Essex Shipbuilding also depicts these vessels at sea-fishing, racing, or pursuing more unusual work, from Arctic exploration to naval service in both world wars to rumrunning during Prohibition.
by Joseph Garland
Like countless Gloucester fishermen before and since, Howard Blackburn and Tom Welch were trawling for halibut on the Newfoundland banks in an open dory in 1883 when a sudden blizzard separated them from their mother ship. Alone on the empty North Atlantic, they battled towering waves and frozen spray to stay afloat. Welch soon succumbed to exposure, and Blackburn did the only thing he could: He rowed for shore. He rowed five days without food or water, with his hands frozen to the oars, to reach the coast of Newfoundland. Yet his tests had only begun.
So begins Joe Garland's extraordinary account of the hero fisherman of Gloucester. Incredibly, though Blackburn lost his fingers to his icy misadventure, he went on to set a record for swiftest solo sailing voyage across the Atlantic that stood for decades. Lone Voyager is a Homeric saga of survival at sea and a thrilling portrait of the world's most fabled fishing port in the age of sail. (Product description)
The Hungry Ocean
by Linda Greenlaw
She's smart, hard-working and good at what she does, though sometimes she wishes she had a life. Greenlaw is captain of the Hannah Boden, sister ship to the Andrea Gail, the sword-fishing boat whose disappearance was described with agonizing verisimilitude in Sebastian Junger's bestseller, The Perfect Storm. Greenlaw tells a comparatively quotidian tale, "the true story of a real, and typical, sword-fishing trip, from leaving the dock to returning." Not trying to compete with Junger's operatic tale of death on the high seas, Greenlaw deals with stormy personalities rather than with bad weather. She rounds out the story with her gimlet-eyed description of a captain's biggest headache after nature itself: the crew. Racism, drug use, baffling illnesses: these are all elements of a 30-day journey for six people crammed aboard a 100-ft. boat designed less for human comfort than to carry the 50,000 pounds or more of fish it will eventually take on. But Greenlaw picks her sailors carefully and, through her own example, inspires a fierce loyalty among the men such as the one who extracted his own abscessed tooth rather than return to shore ("In my experience," she notes, "very few men are willing to pull their own teeth"). Greenlaw's narrative should foster an abiding respect in anyone who has tossed a swordfish steak on the grill, and it is certain to induce jaw-dropping admiration among personnel managers everywhere. (Publishers Weekly)