Caught by the River

The Deadliest Catch

Mathew Clayton | 5th January 2010

For those in peril on the sea by Mathew Clayton

One of the more unexpected consequences of becoming a parent is that you start watching strange television programmes when everyone else has gone to bed. Last Thursday morning at 4am I was sat on the couch, blanket on legs, gurgling wide awake baby on lap, completely engrossed by The Deadliest Catch, a Discovery series now showing in the dead of night on Channel 4.

It belongs to that genre of American television best described as ‘men with mullets working in inhospitable conditions’ (see also Ice Road Truckers) and follows the exploits of a group of crab fisherman who work out of Dutch Harbour, a desolate frontier style port, which lies in a part of Alaska called, rather wonderfully, Unalaska.

The show is full of breathtaking shots of fishing boats lurching violently up and down as they are battered by skyscraper size waves. The fisherman work non stop for days at a time loading and unloading ‘the stack’ – a 3 story block of massive metal cages known as ‘the pots’ which are used to catch the crabs. It is permanently raining or snowing and everyone is in continual danger.

In the clip above, during a major storm, you see a fisherman climb out onto the far wall of the stack hanging by his fingers over a high sea – an unbelievably brave or foolish thing to do. My favourite moment is the hug at the end which is made even more moving by its awkwardness.