Adventure and nostalgia aboard
Book review: North by Northwestern
KKNW Scandinavian Hour
For some readers, the book North by Northwestern will be a chance to get behind the scenes of the popular TV Discovery series The Deadliest Catch. Written by Capt. Sig Hansen and Mark Sundeen, you will get a close-up on deck life and decisions being made that affect not only the catch but also the very lives of the fishermen on board the FV Northwestern and others. The book also goes into detail of the Hansen family from Karmøy, Norway, and how father, uncles, and sons came to be brought up in the fishing tradition. Explanations abound as we track first the father Sverre and uncles and then the three Hansen boys as they grow from wild teens to manhood and responsibility.
For me, it was more than just a saga of the Hansens and their boat. It was nostalgia and looking back to the places, times, boats, and fishermen I knew back when I spent time between spring and fall school semesters working the salmon fishery on shore or packer boats. Throughout the book, familiar places and people’s names came up regularly. I even was able to look back to my father’s old neighborhood on Karmøy and the little community of Akrehamn that I visited several times while growing up. I found that the Hansens were neighbors there. My dad and his brother and brother-in-law were among the many Karmøyvarings who came to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska to make grubstakes in the late 1920s. Like many, Dad stayed and continued in the halibut fleet the rest of his life, and I became familiar with his stories and many of the names mentioned in Hansen’s book. Several characters mentioned in the book came to Seattle in the 1950s, and we socialized at least with the ones who stayed in Seattle frequently.
This book details many aspects of the crab fishery, including how it’s done, the equipment used, the specific ways that Sig finds where to set his pots and even a section on the various types of crab fished in Alaska right down to scientific description of the crab’s sex life.
The saga of Sverre and crew surviving the famous explosion was sprinkled through the book rather than told at one go. It may have been a good literary tool, but I found it difficult to read that way. That is about the only criticism I could make about this family story that has the figures of Norwegian and Alaskan crab fishermen sketched in enough detail so one gets a feel for the excitement, danger, and satisfaction they faced.
At the end of this enjoyable read we have an appreciation for how some of our food gets to our tables.
Doug Warne is the host of The Scandinavian Hour, which has been a community fixture for over half a century in Seattle. He sponsors many scholarships through the Leif Erikson Lodge of Sons of Norway, and serves on the board of that organization. In 2012, he was named Person of the Year by the Seattle chapter of the NACC.
This article originally appeared in the July 26, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.