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Lost at sea :an American tragedyby Patrick Dillon
Synopses & Reviews
On the morning of February 3, 1983, the Americus and Altair, two state-of-the-art crabbing vessels, idled at the dock in their home port of Anacortes, Washington. On deck, the fourteen crewmen--fathers, sons, brothers and friends who'd known one another all their lives--prepared for the ten-day trip to Dutch Harbor, Alaska. From this rough-and-tumble seaport the men would begin a grueling three-month season in one of the nation's most profitable and deadliest occupations--fishing for crab in the notorious Bering Sea. Standing on the Anacortes dock that morning, the families and friends of the crew knew that in the wake of the previous year's multimillion-dollar losses, the pressure for this voyage was unusually intense.
Eleven days later, on Valentine's Day, the overturned hull of the Americus was found drifting in calm seas only twenty-five miles from Dutch Harbor, without a single distress call or trace of its seven-man crew. The Altair, its sister ship, had disappeared altogether; in the desperate search that followed, no evidence of the vessel or its crew would ever be found. The nature of the disaster--fourteen men and two vessels,apparently lost within hours of each other--made it the worst on record in the history of U.S. commercial fishing.
Delving into the mysterious tragedy of the Americus and Altair, acclaimed journalist Patrick Dillon vivifies the eighty-knot winds, subzero temperatures, and mountainous waves commercial fishermen fight daily to make their living, and illustrates the incredible rise of the Pacific Northwest's ocean frontier: from a father-and-son business to a dangerously competitive multibillion-dollar high-tech industry with one of the highest death rates in the nation. Here Dillon explores the lives the disaster left behind in Anacortes: the ambitious young entrepreneur who raised the top-notch fleet in a few short years, the guilt-ridden captains of the surviving sister boats, and the grief-numbed families of the crew. Tracing the two-year investigation launched by the Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board, he brings to life a heated cast of opponents: ingenious scientists, defensive marine architects, blue-chip lawyers and wrangling politicians, all struggling to come to terms with the puzzling death of fourteen men at sea. And finally, in his evocation of one mother's crusade to pass the safety legislation that might save lives, Dillon creates a moving portrait of courage and love.
Patrick Dillon grew up among commercial fishermen on an island in Puget Sound. Formerly an editor and columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, he has won national journalism awards, including a share of the Pulitzer Prize. His columns and essays have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Fast Company magazine, among other publications. Married to photographer Anne Dowie and the father of two, he lives in San Francisco.
Nationally acclaimed journalist Patrick Dillon delivers the arresting tragedy of the fourteen men and two state-of-the-art commercial fishing vessels that disappeared without a trace under 4,000 feet of freezing water in the Bering Sea in 1983 — the worst commercial fishing disaster in American history.
On the morning of February 14, 1983, Captains George Nations and Ron Biernes ordered the lines of their 123-foot crabbing vessels, the Americus and the Altair, cast off from their mooring in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. With them were twelve young sailors eager to earn a full year's pay in just a few weeks, and to tackle the notorious Bering sea aboard one of the most advanced and respected fleets in the Pacific Northwest. For the two captains, this trip was their one chance to rebound from the millions of dollars lost when a fire the previous season destroyed one of the fleet's five vessels. As a result, the two boats were loaded down with as many 700-pound crab pots as possible. Hours after it left, the Americus would be found capsized only thirty miles away from the dock, without a single trace of George Nations or any member of his crew. No trace of the Altair and its crew, not even an upturned hull, would ever be found.
Nationally acclaimed journalist Patrick Dillon traces the investigation of this tragedy, recorded as the worst commercial fishing disaster in the history of the United States. The story begins in Anacortes, Washington, a small fishing village whose fortunes vary with each year's catch; it examines the lives of the families who for generations have lost their sons and husbands — fishermen who fought off all government attempts at regulations and safety standards — tothe dangerous Bering Sea. From there, Dillon retraces the slaps of the Coast Guard investigation that lay bare the conclusions that shocked not just the community of Anacortes but the entire fishing industry, and tells the story of the families who rallied together to see the passing of the industry's first comprehensive safety laws.
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