Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Those who go down to the sea in ships...

There is a lot wrong with television, but, in my opinion the Discovery Channel is one of the great advantages of having one of these devices. Recently, we've been watching a show called "Deadliest Catch." It's a reality show that's not a reality show. When I say that, I mean- it's not full of "beautiful people" posturing for fame and fortune. In this show, cameras follow several crews on different fishing boats in the Bering Sea. Most of the time, they're fishing for Alaskan king crab. It's one of the most dangerous jobs in one of the most dangerous places in the world. Some of the men are the ugliest creatures alive - crusty, grumpy, crotchety, warty, scruffy, hoarse old buggers. Some of them smoke like chimneys and most of them have language that confirms the stereotype of a sailor, but thankfully, the offensive words are bleeped out. But there is something about the ocean, the innumerable dangers including icy decks and rogue waves, the camaraderie and teamwork, the suffering and exhaustion of working days on end with little or no sleep, the crazy, violent Arctic weather, the guesswork and luck of where to put your traps, and the thrill of getting a "full pot" - it makes for great entertainment, in my opinion. Just because I like it, doesn't mean you have to, though. So if you watch it and think it's boring or worse- brutish and coarse- so be it.

The other night, we watched the latest episode. One of the ships was in close proximity to another ship - perhaps a quarter mile or so- out on the open ocean. ( The second ship was not one on which there were any cameras for this show. They only have cameras on half a dozen or so boats in the fleet.) The weather was fairly nasty and the captain of the boat was watching a man working on the other boat. The camera zoomed in across the choppy, gray sea to a small figure of a man, hanging onto the side of a pile of traps, securing them to the boat, directly over the ocean. The seas were surging so high that the waves actually reached him and suddenly he was gone. The captain of the boat who was watching shouted, "Man overboard!" and threw his ship into action - sounding sirens, turning the boat in the fallen man's direction. I didn't understand why his own ship didn't rescue him, but I guess it had something to do with the direction that the ocean was taking him. The cameras followed the crew as they scrambled into emergency gear and raced out on deck to throw a life ring overboard. They said that only a few minutes in the water would be enough to give this man hypothermia, which would kill him. I thought he was a goner for sure; it didn't seem like they were close enough to reach him in time.

Amazingly, they maneuvered themselves into a position to catch him. They hauled him up on the deck and took him below. Shivering, wrapped in a blanket, he sat in the galley, still in danger of contracting hypothermia and death. Apparently, he had fallen partly due to the fact that he was exhausted and his fingers were so cold that when the wave came, he couldn't hold on to the traps anymore. After a few moments, the danger had passed, and it was clear he was going to live. He kept thanking them, saying that if they hadn't been watching him when he fell, he'd be dead. The captain of the rescuing boat came down to meet the man he had saved. They had never met before and yet they embraced in a frantic, emotional sort of dance, half crying. There was no false modesty - no shy shuffling around saying, "Oh, no big deal. Don't mention it. You'd have done the same for me." ( which I'm sure is true) Instead, they were clutching on to each other as if they were brothers, instead of total strangers. The whole crew was moved.

To watch someone pass from death to life like that - in a real life situation, not as an actor- was an amazing and powerful experience. I practically cried myself.

5 comments:

Kim Kelley said...

Claire that the Deadliest Catch is one of my favorite shows to watch. I am always watching the Discovery Channel. But I have not seen the episode that you are talking about yet. I can't wait to see it.

ljmax said...

Whoops, there goes the sail.

ahappywife said...

who's scruffy looking?

Claire said...

Frittow- you watch DC too?

Shari said...

We love DC too!