Deadliest Catch Season 6

Series: Deadliest Catch, Season 6

Deadliest Catch Season 6
Deadliest Catch Season 6

Tony and I continue to feed our strange addiction to this Discovery Channel show. We found Season 5 to be dark and grim. Deadliest Catch Season 6 deals with even heavier subject matter, but somehow manages to uplift one at the same time. If you haven’t seen the series and plan to, and don’t know what happens, you probably shouldn’t read any further.

The usual ingredients are all there: foul-mouthed crab fishermen, rough seas, ice, snow, sleet, storms, and huge pots of beautiful, valuable Alaskan red king crabs and opilio crabs. The core group of captains still feature – Sig Hansen of the Northwestern, the Hillstrand brothers of the Time Bandit, and Phil Harris of the Cornelia Marie. The mercurial and superstitious Keith Colburn of the Wizard returns in this season, and newcomer Captain Bill Wichrowski of the Kodiak attempts to make a crab fishing comeback after years out of the game.

To a certain extent the personal dramas overshadow some of the fishing activity, which is mixed for all the captains. The father of one of the crew members of the Northwestern goes missing, and the emotional strain of trying to support his family and the feeling of helplessness at not being in Seattle to assist with the search plays out in the young man’s mind. His experience is mirrored by that of the Harris brothers, whose father Phil has a stroke during the offloading of opilio crab and is hospitalised in Anchorage, Alaska.

Eleven days later he succumbs to another stroke, and the Cornelia Marie loses her captain. One of the joys of this series has been watching Phil Harris and his sons together – as a fisherman he spent months on end away from home when they were children, and he clearly relished the time he spent with them working as deckhands on his boat. His send-off by the captains of the other vessels in the fleet were very special – ranging from fireworks on the Time Bandit, to Captain Keith – choked up with tears – dropping a full crab pot overboard, with no lines or buoys attached and a buoy inside with Phil Harris’s name on it – so that Phil would always have a full pot to come back to.

The final episode of the season is a tribute to Captain Phil Harris. He’s held up as someone who lived the American dream – making his way from hardscrabble beginnings, through labour with his hands, to a position of commercial success. It’s has fascinating parallels to the Hillstrand brothers’ life story, as told in their book Time Bandit. The back-breaking work on fishing boats was often followed by days of wild partying, and the large amounts of money that can be made by crab fishermen were not always spent wisely. The long periods of absence from home caused strain in relationships, and the primary regrets that fishing fathers seem to have is that they “weren’t there for their kids”. Edgar Hansen, deck boss of the Northwestern, has his own existential (and physical – he has chronic back pain from years of work on deck) crisis for the duration of this season, and attempts more than once to signal to his older brother Sig that his time as a fisherman is drawing to a close. Sig is not receptive to these signals.

While it’s hard not to get caught up in the personal struggles of the fishermen, Tony and I do love most of all the sea and the boats. Footage of Captain Bill fishing up near the ice floes is spectacular, and we were happy to see that the producers experimented a tiny bit more with the camera work this season. GoPro cameras were used strapped to crewmen’s heads, the picking hook, and (we suspect) to obtain some other brief underwater footage of pots being hauled over the rail. Occasional use of CGI illustrates concepts such as the buoy configuration for fishing in the ice, and the problems caused by frozen or leaky hydraulic lines, along with the interconnectedness of the systems on the vessel that rely on these lines.

You can get the DVD box set here if you are in South Africa, and here if you’re not.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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