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The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea

The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea

4.2 153
by Sebastian Junger

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A real-life thriller that leaves us with the taste of salt on our tongues and a terror of the deep.


A real-life thriller that leaves us with the taste of salt on our tongues and a terror of the deep.

Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times

There is nothing imaginary about Junger's book; it is all terrifyingly, awesomely real.

Patrick O'Brian
“One reads with the most intense concern, anxiety and concentration; and if one knows anything at all about the sea one feels the absolutely enormous strength of the hurricane winds and the incredibly towering mass of the hundred-foot waves.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“A fascinating book, not just about a storm, but about the hard-drinking, fatalistic lives of commercial fishermen and the families and friends they leave behind with each dangerous voyage.”
“The pages of this book crunch with salt.”
Seattle Times
“Rich, compassionate characterization, as well as taut, suspenseful prose. A tale that doesn't skimp on facts, yet keeps you turning pages from beginning to end.”
Boston Globe
“Riveting…The natural upheaval holds center stage and acts as a character, but the story converges upon human beings—in this case, the six-man crew of the doomed Gloucester swordfishing boat Andrea Gail.”
Library Journal
For readers desiring more depictions of powerful weather bringing down crews and for those who enjoy being immersed in a true adventure, check out Junger’s account of the 1991 storm that sunk the fishing boat the Andrea Gail, taking down its entire crew of six, and the rescue attempts by the Coast Guard and the Air National Guard to save others trapped in the same storm. Junger shares with Zuckoff a focus on the hour-by-hour nature of disasters, the same fine eye for telling detail and explanation, and the same respect for men who risk their lives to save others. This account of the fury of the sea and the human response to its terror is a gripping and grim one, richly textured by attention to the back stories of the characters—from members of fishing communities to rescue swimmers—and the worlds in which they operate.

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Penny Smith
The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger is brilliant. I've given it to all my friends. It's got everything, drama, pathos, terror on the high seas, and then the exciting build-up to the crescendo with the 100 foot waves. — Cover Magazine
Washington Post Book World
Superb...told with authority, brio, and deep sympathy for those in peril on the sea.
Philadelphia Inquirer
Takes readers into the maelstrom and shows nature's splendid and dangerous havoc at its utmost.
LA Times Book Review
A wild ride that brilliantly captures the awesome power of the raging sea.
Anthony Bailey
...thrilling -- a boat ride into and (for us) out of a watery hell. -- New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In meteorological jargon, a "perfect storm" is one unsurpassed in ferocity and duration a description that fits the so-called Halloween Gale of October 1991 in the western Atlantic. Junger, who has written for American Heritage and Outside, masterfully handles his account of that storm and its devastation. He begins with a look at the seedy town of Gloucester, Mass., which has been sliding downhill ever since the North Atlantic fishing industry declined, then focuses his attention on the captain and the five-man crew of the Andrea Gail, a swordfishing vessel. He then charts the storm particularly formidable because three storms had converged from the south, the west and the north that created winds up to 100 miles an hour and waves that topped 110 feet. He reconstructs what the situation must have been aboard the ship during the final hours of its losing battle with the sea, and the moments when it went down with the loss of all hands. He recaps the courageous flight of an Air National Guard helicopter, which had to be ditched in the ocean leaving one man dead while the other four were rescued then returns to Gloucester and describes the reaction to the loss of the Andrea Gail. Even with the inclusion of technical information, this tale of the Storm of the Century is a thrilling read and seems a natural for filming.
School Library Journal
The powerfully destructive forces of nature that created the Halloween Gale of 1991 are made vivid through interviews with survivors, families, and Coast Guard rescue crews. True adventure at its best
Entertainment Weekly
Guaranteed to blow readers away...A+.
Kirkus Reviews
The experience of being caught at sea in the maw of a 'perfect' storm (that is, one formed of an almost unique combination of factors), a monstrous tempest that couldn't get any worse, is spellbindingly captured by Junger. It's late October 1991, and the Andrea Gail, a fishing boat out of Gloucester, Mass., is making its way home from the Grand Banks with a crew of six, 40,000 pounds of swordfish, and a short market promising big returns. Coming to meet the boat is a hurricane off Bermuda, a cold front coming down from the Canadian Shield, and a storm brewing over the Great Lakes. Things get ugly quickly, unexpectedly. The Andrea Gail is never seen again, lost to 100-foot waves and winds topping 120 miles per hour. Junger builds his story around the vessel; he starts with biographies of the deckhands and the captain, and gives as complete an account of the boat's time at sea as he can dredge up, so readers feel an immediate stake in its fate. Since it is unknown exactly how the Andrea Gail sank, and because Junger wanted to know what it was like for the men during their last hours, he details the horrific tribulations of a sailboat caught in the storm, the rescue of the three aboard it by the Coast Guard, and the ditching of an Air National Guard helicopter after it ran out of fuel during another rescue operation. Junger's fine dramatic style is complemented by a wealth of details that flesh out the story: wave physics and water thermoclines; what it means if you see whitewater outside your porthole; where the terms mayday, ill-wind, and down East came from. Reading this gripping book is likely to make the would-be sailor feel both awed and a little frightened bynature's remorseless power.

Kansas City Star
“Harrowing, relentless . . . and thoroughly enjoyable.”
Dava Sobel
“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.”

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt


It's no fish ye're buying, it's men's lives.

--Sir Walter Scott

The Antiquary, Chapter 11

A soft fall rain slips down through the trees and the smell of ocean is so strong that it can almost be licked off the air. Trucks rumble along Rogers Street and men in t-shirts stained with fishblood shout to each other from the decks of boats. Beneath them the ocean swells up against the black pilings and sucks back down to the barnacles. Beer cans and old pieces of styrofoam rise and fall and pools of spilled diesel fuel undulate like huge iridescent jellyfish. The boats rock and creak against their ropes and seagulls complain and hunker down and complain some more. Across Rogers Street and around the back of the Crow's Nest, through the door and up the cement stairs, down the carpeted hallway and into one of the doors on the left, stretched out on a double bed in room number twenty-seven with a sheet pulled over him, Bobby Shatford lies asleep.

He's got one black eye. There are beer cans and food wrappers scattered around the room and a duffel bag on the floor with t-shirts and flannel shirts and blue jeans spilling out. Lying asleep next to him is his girlfriend, Christina Cotter. She's an attractive woman in her early forties with rust-blond hair and a strong, narrow face. There's a TV in the room and a low chest of drawers with a mirror on top of it and a chair of the sort they have in high-school cafeterias. The plastic cushion cover has cigarette burns in it. The window looks out on Rogers Street where trucks ease themselves into fish-plant bays.

It's still raining. Across the street is Rose Marine, where fishing boats fuel up, and across a smallleg of water is the State Fish Pier, where they unload their catch. The State Pier is essentially a huge parking lot on pilings, and on the far side, across another leg of water, is a boatyard and a small park where mothers bring their children to play. Looking over the park on the corner of Haskell Street is an elegant brick house built by the famous Boston architect, Charles Bulfinch. It originally stood on the corner of Washington and Summer Streets in Boston, but in 1850 it was jacked up, rolled onto a barge, and transported to Gloucester. That is where Bobby's mother, Ethel, raised four sons and two daughters. For the past fourteen years she has been a daytime bartender at the Crow's Nest. Ethel's grandfather was a fisherman and both her daughters dated fishermen and all four of the sons fished at one point or another. Most of them still do.

The Crow's Nest windows face east into the coming day over a street used at dawn by reefer trucks. Guests don't tend to sleep late. Around eight o'clock in the morning, Bobby Shatford struggles awake. He has flax-brown hair, hollow cheeks, and a sinewy build that has seen a lot of work. In a few hours he's due on a swordfishing boat named the Andrea Gail, which is headed on a one-month trip to the Grand Banks. He could return with $5,000 in his pocket or he could not return at all. Outside, the rain drips on. Chris groans, opens her eyes, and squints up at him. One of Bobby's eyes is the color of an overripe plum.

Did I do that?



She considers his eye for a moment. How did I reach that high?

They smoke a cigarette and then pull on their clothes and grope their way downstairs. A metal fire door opens onto a back alley, they push it open and walk around to the Rogers Street entrance. The Crow's Nest is a block-long faux-Tudor construction across from the J. B. Wright Fish Company and Rose Marine. The plate-glass window in front is said to be the biggest barroom window in town. That's quite a distinction in a town where barroom windows are made small so that patrons don't get thrown through them. There's an old pool table, a pay phone by the door, and a horseshoe-shaped bar. Budweiser costs a dollar seventy-five, but as often as not there's a fisherman just in from a trip who's buying for the whole house. Money flows through a fisherman like water through a fishing net; one regular ran up a $4,000 tab in a week.

Bobby and Chris walk in and look around. Ethel's behind the bar, and a couple of the town's earlier risers are already gripping bottles of beer. A shipmate of Bobby's named Bugsy Moran is seated at the bar, a little dazed. Rough night, huh? Bobby says. Bugsy grunts. His real name is Michael. He's got wild long hair and a crazy reputation and everyone in town loves him. Chris invites him to join them for breakfast and Bugsy slides off his stool and follows them out the door into the light rain. They climb into Chris's twenty-year-old Volvo and drive down to the White Hen Pantry and shuffle in, eyes bloodshot, heads throbbing. They buy sandwiches and cheap sunglasses and then they make their way out into the unrelenting greyness of the day. Chris drives them back to the Nest and they pick up thirty-year-old Dale Murphy, another crew member from the Andrea Gail, and head out of town.

Dale's nickname is Murph, he's a big grizzly bear of a guy from Bradenton Beach, Florida. He has shaggy black hair, a thin beard, and angled, almost Mongolian eyes; he gets a lot of looks around town. He has a three-year-old baby, also named Dale, whom he openly adores. The Perfect Storm. Copyright © by Sebastian Junger. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Patrick O'Brian
One feels the absolutely enormous strength of the hurricane winds and the incredibly towering mass of the hundred-foot waves.
Dava Sobel
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.

Meet the Author

Sebastian Junger is the author of A Death in Belmont and Fire. He has been awarded a National Magazine Award and an SAIS Novartis Prize for journalism. Most recently, he has been reporting on the war in Afghanistan for Vanity Fair. He lives in New York City.

Brief Biography

New York, New York
Date of Birth:
January 17, 1962
Place of Birth:
Boston, Massachusetts
B.A. in Anthropology, Wesleyan University, 1984

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The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 153 reviews.
Bill_in_LA More than 1 year ago
I read this book shortly after it first came out on hard cover, I then reread it several years later. Junger did an excellent job in getting most of the details right. He told it like it was. I served aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Tamaroa (the cutter that rescued most of the Air National Guard helecopter crew) starting shortly after this event took place, I knew many of the key players ivolved in all that took place. I have met many others that were involved as well. (The Tam's decommissioning ceremony was a very emotional event in 1994). If you're looking for an acturate portrailal of what could and sometimes does happen on the open sea, this is a good book for you. It's also good for those who have ever wondered about what the U.S Coast Guard and the Air National Guard deal with on a daily basis. over all an excellent book
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nonstop action from page to page. The comepletly factual book actualy makes the Andrea Gail and the six men aboard come to life along with a monsterous sea with the power of God.
Aimee_Leon More than 1 year ago
The Perfect Storm was a gripping and tragic true story of the struggle between man and strong elements. This non fic novel is about the swordfish ship 'The Andrea Gail' and its crew on the rugged seas. The rare conditions that led to three seperate storms to merdge into one dagerously violent storm is known as the perfect storm. This storm produced waves as high and ten stories high and 120 mile-an-hour winds. Talk about crazy weather. The Andrea Gail is caught right in the worst part of this storm and the crew struggles to survive, the crew's friends and family worry anxiously to hear news of their loved ones. A touching love story and an excellent adventure. The writing was outstanding and very descriptive. Sebastian Junger got all of the setting detailed well and got great point of view of all family members & friends of the victims. The Perfect Storm, was a great and suspenseful non fiction novel. It was the perfect read.
Bookworm1951 5 months ago
This was a well written book. Not just about the Andrea Gail but how this epic storm affected the entire fishing industry, their towns, families, friends, those on the rescue teams, etc. Lots of history regarding the fishing industry. The author explained in great detail how things are handled on the varous fishing boats as well as great meteorological detail about the storm and it's development. I felt that some of this great repetitive detail eventually made parts of the story a little boring - therefore the 4 star rating rather than 5 stars. Overall, a great book that makes you realize it's not just about the Andrea Gail as depicted in the movie. Would recommend this book to any history buff.
svsu More than 1 year ago
The perfect storm book tells what its like to be a sword fisherman on the east coast. I can tell you it is a grueling job with weeks out at sea and little sleep. This book really tells you everything. Watch the movie then read the book. I purchased The Perfect Storm in ebook format.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book The Perfect Storm was a very good book. It had very descriptive and captivating tales of not only the Andrea Gail in, but many other ships and coast guard men. It was interesting to read and I learned a lot from it. I would recommend this for older reads, probably high school or older. It was a good book. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story gives me a lot of respect for what the fishing people have to go through for their livelyhood. Think they well earn every dollar they make.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book to read found it hard to put down. Also very enlightening.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was really enjoyable for me; it tells the true story of a commercial fishing boat, the Andrea Gail, that fishes swordfish. The book describes a fishing trip the boat heads out on, and a storm that hits them during a trip, the author describes the storm as perfect because it could not possibly have been any worse. The trip the characters take is to a fishing spot known as grand banks near Newfoundland in Canada. The crew extends the trip, because the fishing was not going well, and they needed a profit. When they start heading home they are alerted with reports of small hurricanes around the area they are sailing through, but the captain of the Gail, Billy Tyne, decides to keep going, because their fish are spoiling and they all want to get home. When they are about halfway home, three hurricanes smash together and become one of the most violent ocean storms in history, and the Andrea Gail gets pulled into it and disappears. None of the facts in this book were made up, the waves that were ten stories high and the powerful winds that tore up the sea are all real. This book was one of the most unbelievable non-fiction books I have ever read. I highly recommend it and rate it 9 out of ten.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sebastian Junger is an amazing author who can tell a story in a book just like he was sitting in the room with you having a chat. By the end of this book, I felt I knew these people and I felt for them. Junger conveyed their bravery, determination, and grief to the point that I did more than just feel sorry for them; I felt respect. The movie did not do this book justice. For me this is a must-read.
Elvertron700 More than 1 year ago
Sebastian Junger is a great author. He was able to describe the theme of the book so well and he nailed every detail. In the beginning of the book I could imagine the scene and even the hint of a harbor smell in the air. Even though the start of the book describes a sad situation, it still is enjoyable to read. There is sadness for the missing of the men when they are gone; there is so much happiness between Bobby and Chris. Gloucester, Massachusetts is described as a rainy and grey area to live in, but there is brightness between Bobby and Chris that lifts up the mood and gives the reader hope and a happy feeling. The book is a true love story. The power of love between the fishermen on the boat and their loved ones on the short is so massive despite their great distant apart. Everyone wants to see their loved ones again. I think that the whole point of this book is to tell the reader that even in the worst of times, there is a bright place. If you’re a reader who likes to know about history, it’s also a great book. Sebastian Junger includes stories about the past that explain how many things began in the main story. On the other hand, the book can get a little boring. Fishing can be an unexciting topic to read about in detail. There was also so much description of the storm that the book was a little slow at times. It was great explanation of the storm just a little too much for my taste. Nevertheless, this is a good book to read because even in the darkest hour, there is a bright spot that lifts you up. Also, it’s hard to find a book with such great description of every detail.
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tkennedy More than 1 year ago
The Perfect Storm written by Sebastian Junger. The reason I read this book is because my father was watching the movie and I watched with him. I thought that the movie was great. In the first half part of the school year we had to get a book for SRA. I saw the book in the teachers book shelf and thought that I may like the book and I read it. It turned out to be a great book. In the beginning of the book Billy Tyne the captain of the Andre Gail. The Andre Gail is off to a bad start already. It is September 20th late in the season to be heading out. Tyne can barely round up a full crew. Tyne gets Alfred Pierre an Jamaican from New York City. Bobby, Bugsy, Murph, Chris. They where going to have someone else named Adam Randall. He didn't get on the boat because he thought that the Andre Gail unsafe boat to be on. So Tyne got David Sullivan to take the place of Adam Randall. S Type Pierre, Sullivan, Moran, Murphy and Shatford are going to the Grand Banks on the Andre Gail. In the middle of the book are out fishing to get some swordfish. They start to catch some fish and everything seem to be going fine. Then they stop catching some fish. They only have about 20,000 pounds with them and that is just barley pays off every thing that need to get out there. They go for a day or two with out catching anything and the crew gets anger with Tyne. The next day the crew starts to catch a lot of swordfish. Now the crew is happy because they know that they have made a lot of money and have to get back .Billy gets the weather chart off the fax and he tells the crew that there is something big coming. The crew start to get everything of the deck. They also check to see if everything is running fine. Billy know that they are headed right for the middle of the storm. There are three storms and the Andre Gail is right in the middle off all of them and people are calling it the perfect storm. Billy is head to Sable island and there are sixty-foot waves there. Now the storm is at its peck and things are going bad on the Andre Gail . On the boat the windows are imploding and water is flooding the cabin of the boat they have also lost power on the boat because of the flooding. In the conditions there is no way the a helicopter could save six people and Billy knows it. The waves are now up to Seventy-foot waves and the only thing that Billy can do is try and take them head on and hope that he get over then top of them before they break. The Andre Gail or the crew ever got out of the storm. The crew may have got off the boat before it went down but with the temperatures of the water there is no way that they could live. Tyne, Pierre, Sullivan, Moran, Murphy, Shatford are dead. They were never found again. The reason that this book matters to me is because that the theme is not to fight nature and I believe that I also love the ocean and fishing I also like true stories . If you like true stories you would like this book. You also have to like fact because the you a lot of facts in this book you most take the book and the story and nature serious because everything that happens in this book could happen to you. So you can learn not to do what they did because you could lose your life doing it. If you like any of those thing then you would like this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Moly More than 1 year ago
This is a total story of a real event. A real 'perfect storm.' When this storm hit in the late '90's we watched the water flood our street, 3 blocks from the Atlantic. Then we heard from a friend on Cape Ann what happened and that my son's CG boat was involved in one of the rescues. (He was off the Tamaroa by that time) I cannot recommend this book enough. It will hold your attention from start to finish.
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