Sebastian Junger The Perfect Storm
American nonfiction writer.
Before he became a writer, Sebastian Junger made a living as a climber for a tree-removal company. After suffering a serious injury, he turned his attention to writing. Junger reports having always had a fascination with men facing extreme situations, and his first book, The Perfect Storm (1997), expresses this interest. The book follows the true story of a swordfishing boat, the Andrea Gail, and her crew as they face one of the worst storms in the last hundred years, a gale that one meteorologist termed a "perfect storm." In October of 1991, two storm fronts joined with the remnants of Hurricane Grace to create 70- to 100-foot waves and 100-mile-per-hour winds. On October 28, the Andrea Gail was returning to her port in Gloucester, Massachusetts, after a successful trip and was carrying 40,000 pounds of swordfish and tuna in her hold; she was halfway home near the coast of Nova Scotia when the storm began. The captain sent one final radio message and was never heard from again. Though no first-hand accounts of the Andrea Gail's final hours exist, Junger attempts to relate the ship's last voyage by piecing together stories of survivors caught in the same storm, adding meteorological information about the force of the storm and the effect it was likely to have had on the Andrea Gail. Junger also traces the lives of the crew before they left on the trip and recounts the history of the fishing industry in Gloucester. Many reviewers noted the ambitious research and technical information that went into The Perfect Storm. Anthony Bailey asserted that "not all of Junger's information is vital to his task," but most critics found the technical information helpful to the story and praised Junger for his masterful handling of it. Richard Ellis stated, "In less competent hands, this abundance of information might impede the progress of the narrative. But, for the most part, the book—like the storm it describes—rolls along toward its inevitable conclusion: the sinking of the Andrea Gail and the death of its crew." Reviewers also lauded Junger for his ability to create a vivid, though imagined, picture of the event. Bailey said, "just as he has kept us hooked so far, despite our knowing from the start that the Andrea Gail and her crew are doomed, so he manages with considerable reporting skill to conjure up their last hours." Sandy Bauers described The Perfect Storm as "a cross between a meteorological whatdunnit and a high-seas drama."
SOURCE: "Sturm und Drang," in Los Angeles Times Book Review, May 25, 1997, pp. 8-9.
[In the following review, Ellis lauds Junger's The Perfect Storm as "a wild ride that brilliantly captures the awesome power of the raging sea and the often futile attempts of humans to withstand it."]
In October 1991, Sebastian Junger was standing on the shore of Gloucester, Mass., as winds howled, waves crested at 100 feet, ships were overturned, rescues were effected, men died. In The Perfect Storm, he writes: "A mature hurricane is by far the most powerful event on Earth; the combined nuclear arsenals of the United States and the former Soviet Union don't contain enough energy to keep a hurricane going for one day. A typical hurricane encompasses a million cubic miles of atmosphere and could provide all the electric power needed by the United States for three or four years. During the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, winds surpassed 200 miles an hour and people caught outside were sandblasted to death."
Junger investigated the lives and deaths of six fishermen who went down with their fishing boat, the 72-foot Andrea Gail, off the coast of Nova Scotia; he tracked the course of the storm, investigated other vessels caught in the storm, researched the training of rescue jumpers and interviewed meteorologists. The "perfect storm" of the title was bestowed on the Halloween Gale of 1991...
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SOURCE: "The Shipwreck Story No One Survived to Tell," in The New York Times, June 5, 1997, p. C20.
[In the following review, Lehmann-Haupt praises Junger for "nicely pac[ing] his narrative" in The Perfect Storm.]
The title of Sebastian Junger's powerful book, The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea, is not meant to be celebratory. Rather, Mr. Junger, a freelance journalist, intends the phrase "perfect storm" to be read "in the meteorological sense: a storm that could not possibly have been worse."
As he reports at the height of his gripping story, when Bob Case, a meteorologist in the Boston office of the National Weather Service, observed the satellite imagery of three storm systems colliding off New England in late October 1991, he experienced a dreadful thrill.
"Meteorologists see perfection in strange things," Mr. Junger writes, "and the meshing of three completely independent weather systems to form a hundred-year event is one of them. My God, thought Case, this is the perfect storm."
To be out at sea in the path of such an event would be a catastrophic experience. And so it evidently proved for the six men aboard the Andrea Gail, a 72-foot swordfish boat that disappeared off the coast of Nova Scotia on Oct. 28, leaving behind only fuel drums, a propane tank and sundry radio equipment that were found weeks later. To...
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SOURCE: "The Tempest," in New York Times Book Review, June 22, 1997, p. 8.
[In the following review, Bailey asserts that Junger "man-ages with considerable reporting skill to conjure up [the crew's] last hours," but complains that "Not all of Junger's information is vital to his task."]
For several hundred years men have been going out from Gloucester, Mass., to fish in near and distant waters, and not all have come home: some 10,000 Gloucestermen have died at sea since 1650. Even today, commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations in this country that men—and now women—can take up. In The Perfect Storm, which chronicles the havoc caused by a monster gale off the coast of New England in 1991, Sebastian Junger tells us that, per capita, more people are killed working on fishing boats than in any other job in the United States. It's safer to parachute into forest fires or be a cop in New York City. Time was when the prime danger for New England fishermen was getting run down on the foggy Grand Banks by an ocean liner or finding oneself adrift in a dory in a January snowstorm, unable to reach one's schooner. Nowadays the perils of fishing lie in highly mechanized gear—hooks running out on fast-moving lines, for instance—or in powerfully engined boats. Meant to bring home the increasingly elusive, perishable catch at speed, such craft can yet find themselves—perhaps...
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SOURCE: "The Same Cruel Life," in Times Literary Supplement, No. 4920, July 18, 1997, p. 8.
[In the following review, Sutherland calls Junger's The Perfect Storm "a fine and moving book, which deserves to succeed."]
Sebastian Junger's publishers describe him as "a writer and adventurer". That is not, one suspects, exactly what he enters under "occupation" on his IRS tax forms, but it creates the necessary authorial bona fides for "A True Story of Men against the Sea". A Perfect Storm is, we are informed, the culmination of the author's lifelong interest in men in extreme circumstances, "out beyond where society can help them". Junger himself apparently used to earn a manly living as a climber for tree-removal companies, "scaling 100-foot trees and taking them down section by section with ropes and a chainsaw". Injury turned him to a more benign assault on the world's forests. A Perfect Storm, his first book, received "terrific" reviews in America and went straight into the bestseller lists; it may well do the same in Britain.
The title is paradoxical. "Perfect" is used in its meteorological sense of "as bad as can be". In October 1991, the collision of two gigantic weather systems generated Hurricane Grace off the American north-eastern coast, a Force Twelve, "hundred year" weather event. The awesome storm wrecked a seventy-two-foot swordfishing boat, the...
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SOURCE: "'Gail'-Force Wins," in Entertainment Weekly, August 1, 1997, pp. 66-7.
[In the following review, De Haven asserts that Junger's A Perfect Storm is "[f]erociously dramatic and vividly written."]
Who'd have figured that bad weather—really bad weather—would enthrall beach readers this summer? In late October 1991, the Andrea Gail, a swordfishing boat out of Gloucester, Mass., was returning home when a freak convergence of three storm systems engulfed it several hundred miles off the coast of Nova Scotia. With shrieking winds and waves like piggybacked dinosaurs, the "Halloween Gale" was a once-in-a-century event, a fisherman's worst nightmare, or, as Sebastian Junger calls it, The Perfect Storm. While Junger's surprise best-seller (no serial killers! no sex! no Hollywood!) encompasses everything from meteorology to shipbuilding to the rough-and-tumble sociology of New England port towns, his focus never strays far from the promise of his subtitle: A True Story of Men Against the Sea. In the clash between the sea and the men of the Andrea Gail, it was no contest—the sea won.
Unlike mariners in the fiction of Melville or Hemingway, few of the Andrea Gail's fishermen seem to have had any mystical attachments to the ocean. (Depending on seniority, a crewman on a sword boat can make between $5,000 and $10,000 a month—or if the...
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