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Working on the Edge: Surviving in the World's Most Dangerous Profession : King Crab Fishing on Alaska's High Seas Hardcover – May, 1991


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The pay was fabulous--a deckhand could earn $100,000 in four months--but working conditions were nightmarish. Fishing for king crab in Alaskan waters is the most dangerous occupation on earth, stresses Walker, who crewed with the crab fleet during the boom years 1976-84 and here presents bone-chilling tales about men (one woman), ships and the sea. Deckhands frequently worked around the clock, pushing 750-pound crab pots over a pitching deck swept with icy, stinging salt spray, enduring gale-force winds and gigantic waves. Because of the lack of privacy and sleep, irregular meals, darkness and isolation from civilization, the offshore life affects sailors mentally as well as physically. Walker gives a gripping account of the 1981 fall season, with its lost ships and heroic rescues. He combines his personal experiences with sailors' stories for a vivid picture of an occupation that challenges nature. Super adventure. Photos.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Walker shares his experiences of crab fishing off the coast of Alaska in an interesting and informative anecdotal style. Readers will learn that the dangers that make crab fishing such a risky if highly profitable profession don't all come from the sea itself. Fear, depression, greed, and drugs have played a large role as well. "For too many caught up in the 'go to hell' lifestyle . . . there was cocaine--grams of it, ounces of it, pounds and kilos . . . ." And then the fishing industry collapsed due to a number of reasons: natural biological cycles, overfishing, large numbers of predators, disease, etc. Recommended for general collections.
- Mary J. Nickum, Fish & Wildlife Reference Svce., Bethesda, Md.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 279 pages
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr; 1st edition (May 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312060025
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312060022
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #815,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This was a well written book.
WI Islander
Told the stories in a factual manner with a bit of a sense of humor.
Kathie D. Allardyce
Spike Walker is a marvelous story teller.
Mary Ann

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
Walker brought me right into the skin of a youthful, 245-pound man with an oil rigger's and lumberjack's experience, who arrived in Kodiak in 1978 with $20 in his pocket, drawn by the lure of high adventure and easy money. When the crabs were running there was almost no sleep, backbreaking labor, and constant danger in sub-zero temperatures and storms at sea.
Rewards for the hearty were steep, however. Crewman had shares in the ship's profits and, if the crabs were running well, could pull in $40,000 or more in a single 29-day stint at sea. No wonder Alaska was attracting all these young men and a few courageous women.
There's hardships and joy, elation and despair, physical feats of survival and courage more exciting than any fiction. The detailed descriptions of the beauty of the land and the realities of nature pulled me right from my life in New York City and set me down next to Walker as he worked with fellow crewman pulling 2000 pound pots of crab from the sea. I felt the frigid wind, the tossing deck, the constant icy spray of seawater. I reeked with seasickness and fatigue and the camaraderie of the crewmen. I celebrated my new found riches in the one bar in town, and mourned the tragic deaths from the whims of nature.
This is also the story of the fishing industry itself. It's the story of greed. And massive investments in technology which plundered the seas of their resources. Its the story of boom and bust and human endurance. And it will forever add a new dimension to my perception of the world.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Joey Bag O' Donuts on August 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
Incredible! Having lived in Alaska for 3 years, serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, I can attest to the authors gripping portrayal of working in this profession. Spike Walker delivers a gritty, real and inside look at king crab fishing in the Bering Sea. I have never read a book that was more in depth on the job as well as the off boat life of a fisherman. Having seen what he describes in the book first hand, with the tragedies and glories, this is one book you will not want to pass up. I would reccomend this to anyone who enjoys stories of the sea. I have owned this book for 2 years and still read it often. This is one novel that won't sit on your shelf for long. The Alaskan king crab fishing fleet is an example of brave men and women, at their finest, and sometimes their worst. Laden with success and sorrow, you will definately get a better understanding of America's most dangerous job, and develop a deep appreciation of what these men and women do every season to provide for the rest of us.
Don't hesitate any longer, get this book today.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Anna J. Hills (s.hills@worldnet.att.net) on November 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a very exciting book for either gender. I lived in Chiniak, on Kodiak Island and my dad was a commercial crab and salmon fisherman on a boat of much smaller scale than the ones referred to in the book. They were known as The Little Fishermen---daddy's boat was 34 feet. He told tales of 30 foot waves crashing across his bow just as Spike Walker tells so vividly in his book. He also told of the dangerous conditions that the fishermen faced in the treacherous Alaskan waters . He had a few tales to tell himself. He was a retired Naval Officer who always dreamed of going to Kodiak and having a fishing boat. He requested Kodiak as his last tour of duty before retiring from 23 years of Naval Service. He built a Log Cabin in Chiniak and bought a boat which he named after me---The Anna J. It is still in service, last I heard owned by Larry Anderson. This book meant a lot to me as some of the names of crewmen,skippers,ports of call and havens from perilous weather rekindled memories of stories told to me by my dad. Mr. Walker's book full of harrowing experiences of life and death paralleled the ones dad told me. My dad would have enjoyed this book so much, but since he is no longer with us I will say for the both of us ----A Great Book Mr. Walker! Sincerely, Anna J. Durham Hills
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By TSchlaack on August 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is a semi-autobiographical tale of the dangers and rewards of fishing in both the Gulf of Alaska and the Bearing Sea. Spike Walker recounts his 8 years of fishing for crab, as well a touches on some of the cod and other fish caught in these cold waters. Walker talks about both the highs (the ability to earn $100,000 in four months, in the early 80's) and the lows (stories of death, missing fishermen, and rampant drug usage).

The book starts when Walker is between jobs and is broke. He calls a former classmate from College who encourages him to travel up to Alaska and "pound the docks" to look for work as a "greenhorn". The work is hard and you must be able to go without sleep for a numbers of hours, days. Spike talks about the reality of getting hired. Many Captains do not like to take out "Greenhorns" as they are not sure what will happen if the person can't take the mental stress that goes with days at sea, while sleep deprived. He mentions one story where someone got into a fight in a galley because they didn't' like the way a guy chewed. As the Captain you are responsible for the safety of all on your boat. You are also responsible for getting the best price for your catch.

Walker goes into details on some of the more prominent accidents during the era of his fishing. He spent time interviewing survivors and coast guard personnel to try and determine what was happening and how things went wrong. These stories are portrayed to the reader as some of the ways that make this job one of the most dangerous in the world. You have frigid seas, rogue waves, mechanical malfunctions that are all working against your success as well as mother nature which may cause more than a foot of ice to form on a boat, or hit the boat with a more than 60' wave.
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