Friday, March 24, 2017

Deadliest Sea

I just finished Deadliest Sea: The Untold Story Behind the Greatest Rescue in Cost Guard History by Kalee Thompson. A bit hyperbolic title and there are a couple of authorial quirks but overall a very enjoyable read.

Seems like I have read a couple of Alaska shipwreck books in the past five years. I remember Working on the Edge by Spike Walker which was very good.

What is striking is the difference in preparedness of the fishermen, mostly as a consequence of increased regulation. Working on the Edge was published in 1993 and covered shipwrecks (mostly of fishing boats and ships) in Alaskan waters through the late eighties and very early nineties. I remember at the time of reading, feeling a great sorrow for the loss of live. Or rather, the needless loss of life. Time and again in a wreck, there were either no, or too few survival suits (immersion suits). With those suits, the chances of surviving in freezing northern waters were still harrowing but far, far greater than anyone who went in without the survival suit.

Thompson's book came out in 2010 covering a sinking in 2008. Between 1990 and 2008, it became mandatory for the larger fishing outfits to have enough survival suits for every sailor on board. As a consequence, in the 2008 sinking, despite 47 men going into the 36 degree water in the darkest hours of the morning (around 3am) and most of them being in the water or in a life raft for three hours, every one of them had survival suits and 42 of the 47 men survived.

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