Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Book Review North By Northwestern by Captain Sig Hansen

North By Northwestern: A Seafaring Family on Deadly Alaskan Waters by Captain Sig Hansen and Mark Sundeen is published by Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press. It is available online at all of the major book retailers, as are both the Kindle and audio book formats. Fortunately the audio version is also available via download on Audible.com, and I'm looking forward to listening to get a feel for all of the Norwegian names that I couldn't get a handle on in the print version.

My interest in the stories told on the Discover Channels television series Deadliest Catch was first piqued by reading the book The White Hurricane by David G. Brown. As I was absorbed in the tale of America's deadliest maritime disaster which occurred when a hurricane-force storm hit the Great Lakes in 1913, I recalled that my children occasionally watched a show where men lived in these conditions nearly every day. I started watching myself, and quickly became enthralled by the men who would choose this profession as a way of life. I have been avidly awaiting Captain Sigs book to become available as soon as I heard it was in the works about two years ago.

The story of the Hansen family fishing legacy is interspersed by the vivid account of the sinking of the wooden F/V Foremost, captained by Sverre Hansen, the patriarch of the American Hansen clan who first emigrated to the United States from the Norwegian island of Karmoy in 1958.

As much as it is a tale of the Hansens and the evolution of the Alaskan fishing industry, it is a tribute to the pioneers of those earlier generations who discovered the bounty of the Bering Sea and through trial and error, with heartbreaking loss of life, learned how to harvest it. The adventures of crab fishing in Alaska that have so captivated viewers of Deadliest Catch are interwoven with the history of Norway, Norwegien immigration, Norwegian culture in America and the personal histories of Sig, Edgar and Norman Hansen.

As wild and dangerous as life aboard the F/V Northwestern and the other fishing vessels featured on the show seems, the medium of television frankly can't capture the true character it takes to live and love that way of life. It is only through writing that fans like me can truly gain insight into these men. Only words, not pictures, can convey the pain, cold, exhaustion, fear, suspense, excitement, joy, satisfaction and much more that these men experience on a moment-by-moment basis. North By Northwestern certainly captures it all.

If your bookshelf, like mine, contains such titles as Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana, Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling, The Seawolf by Jack London and Moby Dick by Herman Melville, this non-fiction version of the seafaring life will definitely be a valuable addition to your library.

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