The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger

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The worst storm in history seen from the wheelhouse of a doomed fishing trawler; a mesmerisingly vivid account of a natural hell from a perspective that offers no escape.

The ‘perfect storm’ is a once-in-a-hundred-years combination: a high pressure system from the Great Lakes, running into storm winds over an Atlantic island – Sable Island – and colliding with a weather system from the Caribbean: Hurricane Grace.

This is the story of that storm, told through the accounts of individual fishing boats caught up in the maelstrom, their families waiting anxiously for news of their return, the rescue services scrambled to save them. It is the story of the old battle between the fisherman and the sea, between man and Nature, that awesome and capricious power which can transform the surface of the Atlantic into an impossible tumult of water walls and gaping voids, with the capacity to break an oil tanker in two.

In spare, lyrical prose THE PERFECT STORM describes what happened when the Andrea Gail looked into the wrathful face of the perfect storm.

"The instinct not to breathe underwater is so strong that it overcomes the agony of running out of air. No matter how desperate the drowning person is, he doesn't inhale until he's on the verge of losing consciousness. At that point there's so much carbon dioxide in the blood, and so little oxygen, that chemical sensors in the brain trigger an involuntary breath whether he's underwater or not. That is called the "break point"; laboratory experiments have shown the break point to come after eighty-seven seconds. It's a sort of neurological optimism, as if the body were saying, Holding our breath is killing us, and breathing in might not kill us, so we might as well breathe in...Until the break point, a drowning person is said to be undergoing "voluntary apnea," choosing not to breathe. Lack of oxygen to the brain causes a sensation of darkness closing in from all sides, as in a camera aperture stopping down. The panic of a drowning person is mixed with an odd incredulity that this is actually happening. Having never done it before, the body--and the mind--do not know how to die gracefully. The process is filled with desperation and awkwardness. 'So this is drowning,' a drowning person might think. 'So this is how my life finally ends.'"

--THE PERFECT STORM

“A terrifying, edifying read. . . . Readers . . . are first seduced into caring for the book’s doomed characters, then compelled to watch them carried into the jaws of a meteorological hell. Junger’s compassionate, intelligent voice instructs us effortlessly on the sea life of the sword-fisherman, the physics of a sinking steel ship, and the details of death by drowning.”

– Dava Sobel, author of Longitude

“Ferociously dramatic and vividly written.”

– Entertainment Weekly