The worst storm in history seem 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, but here Nature is an awesome and capricious power that transforms 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, let alone the 72ft swordfishing boat Andrea Gail with her crew of eight. A typical Hurricane encompasses a million cubic miles of atmosphere and can contain enough energy to, in theory, meet the electric power needs of the UK for a decade. Except that a hurricane will not be controlled. In spare, lyrical prose 'The Perfect Storm' describes what happened when the Andrea Gail looked into the wrathful face of the perfect storm.
Meteorologists called the storm that hit North America's eastern seaboard in October 1991 a "perfect storm" because of the rare combination of factors that created it. For everyone else, it was perfect hell. In The Perfect Storm
, author Sebastian Junger conjures for the reader the meteorological conditions that created the "storm of the century" and the impact the storm had on many of the people caught in it. Chief among these are the six crew members of the swordfish boat the Andrea Gail
, all of whom were lost 500 miles from home beneath roiling seas and high waves. Working from published material, radio dialogues, eyewitness accounts, and the experiences of people who have survived similar events, Junger attempts to re-create the last moments of the Andrea Gail
as well as the perilous high-seas rescues of other victims of the storm.
Like a Greek drama, The Perfect Storm builds slowly and inexorably to its tragic climax. The book weaves the history of the fishing industry and the science of predicting storms into the quotidian lives of those aboard the Andrea Gail and of others who would soon find themselves in the fury of the storm. Junger does a remarkable job of explaining a convergence of meteorological and human events in terms that make them both comprehensible and unforgettable.