“North by Northwestern” by Sig Hansen and Mark Sundeen (Thomas Dunne Books, 2010)

North by Northwestern

From the very first episodes of the premiere season of Deadliest Catch, viewers knew they’d been invited into a world that they’d had little idea existed.  To call it the deadliest job in the world is a large claim to make, but anyone who has watched the show – as excited and thrilled they might be at the fantasy of riding the rough seas and risking their lives – knows it’s a feat that these guys make it back to Dutch Harbor at the end of each season.  But how did these people become the incredible fisherman and brave human beings that they are?

Captain Sig Hansen, and his brothers Edgar and Norman, are part of the crew of the F/V Northwestern, and after six seasons have become international celebrities, with a website, attending conventions, fish products, and a videogame.  But regardless of their celebrity status, for a number of months out of the year they risk their lives in unbelievable weather, working nonstop, all for fresh crab to be served on dinner plates around the world.  In North by Northwestern, Sig Hansen, along with Mark Sundeen (who has written for Outside Magazine and New York Times Magazine), tells the incredible story of how he and his brothers became crab fishermen.  Hansen lets readers know throughout the book that he wouldn’t be where he is, and the crabbing industry wouldn’t be where it is, if it weren’t for his father and his generation of fishermen working with inferior technology and tools and coming up with new, efficient, and improved ways to fish.  Hansen tells the story of his Norwegian childhood, growing up in Ballard near Seattle, but he also tells the story of how the tough Norwegian who began fishing the Nordic seas came over to Washington with hopes of making more money and becoming a great fisherman.

The Alaskan King Crab gold rush began in the seventies and lasted through the nineties.  It was during this period that the Hansen brothers grew up and learned the tools of their trade under the wise guise and learned hands of their father and his brilliant fishermen friends.  North by Northwestern is the truly incredible story of a generation of fishermen about which little is known, as well as about how three Norwegian brothers went from simple fisherman to international celebrities.

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Originally written on October 1 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.