A pulse-pounding, Perfect Storm–style tale of a shipping disaster.
In this riveting account of the demise of El Faro, the merchant ship that sank off the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin on Oct. 1, 2015, killing all 33 crew members, Boston-based journalist Slade uses a variety of sources—e.g., hundreds of pages of audio transcriptions from the ship’s black box, interviews with family members of the victims and with Coast Guard personnel—to compile a nerve-wracking, tension-filled narrative. The author expertly blends the actual conversations of the mariners as they traveled from Florida to Puerto Rico on an overloaded ship with their personal nautical histories, information about merchant shipping and its importance in the global economy, and the intensive investigations that transpired after the incident. Vivid details of the storm’s progress and its effect on the ship place readers onboard with the ill-fated sailors. “Lightning shattered the darkness, turning torrents of rain whipping across the ship’s windshield into bright white claws,” writes the author. “Furious gusts made a deafening howl on the bridge. The ship jerked and plunged as though she had lost her mind with fear.” Slade re-creates the steady pile-up of mistakes that eventually caused El Faro to founder, including inaccurate weather reports and a storm that did not perform as forecast by computer models, human hubris, the fear of upsetting the chain of command, and inadequate and antiquated equipment. All of these problems contributed to an inescapable scenario for one of the worst maritime disasters in decades. The author does solid work giving voice to the 33 mariners who lost their lives. The book serves as both a eulogy to them and a shoutout to the thousands of sailors who risk their lives every day to move goods around the world.
A taut, chilling, and emotionally charged retelling of a doomed ship’s final days.