The Perfect Storm

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As a freelance journalist, Sebastian Junger has written for such magazines as AMERICAN HERITAGE, MEN’S JOURNAL, and OUTSIDE. With THE PERFECT STORM: A TRUE STORY OF MEN AGAINST THE SEA, Junger has proven himself to be a master storyteller. Some of his account first appeared in OUTSIDE, but it is the expanded version that holds the reader mesmerized. In October, 1991, New England commercial fishermen were going about their lives as fishermen before them had done for decades. It is a very hard life for both the fishermen and for their friends and family. Junger does an admirable job of setting the stage, of filling in the details of what it is like to live in a New England fishing town. The town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, is described as a place that has seen better days. The fishing industry has been struggling, which has only added to the tension for those who have remained as fishermen. A swordfishing vessel by the name of the ANDREA GAIL made its home in Gloucester, and the captain and its five-man crew were preparing to set out into the North Atlantic in October, 1991.

Junger describes what life is like for these men before they make what is to be their last voyage. Although not a trained meteorologist, the author does a credible job of presenting the details that go into making what is called in meteorological terms the “perfect storm.” The storm reaches perfection because it is made up of such a rare combination of meteorological phenomenon. The winds reach up to 120 miles per hour at sea and waves in the North Atlantic reach 100 feet. While fishermen take it for granted that foul weather is merely part of the job, a storm of this magnitude was not one they could have foreseen. When the storm hits, it is referred to in newspapers as the “Halloween Storm.” The ANDREA GAIL and the entire crew vanish. Junger painfully reconstructs what it must have been like for the crew members during their last hours alive. Part history, part character study, and part tall tale, THE PERFECT STORM makes for enthralling reading.

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