Thursday, May 01, 2008

Deadliest Catch: A Hero's Journey

I so love the Discovery Channel's series,"Deadliest Catch." Somehow, these edgy, chain-smoking, ballsy, cursin' crab fishing captains and deckhands have won a place in my heart. It all started when a boyfriend turned me onto the show over a year and a half ago. We'd sit there together in his living room and I'd watch in awe as the Bering Sea all but swallows these fishing boats and men day in and day out. My boyfriend would call out "Sig!" when his favorite captain came on screen and explain during commercials the different type of crab they fished: king crab and Opilio. I was instantly hooked. Still am.

O Captain, My Captain! Today, I know "my" captains, their names and their ships, their family heritage of crab fishing and their strengths and vices as captains. Sig Hansen, Phil Harris (picture left), and Johnathan Hillstrand are my favorites and apparently many others, as these three captains are the only three that have been consistently featured in every season. Their boats respectively being the Northwestern, the Cornelia Marie, and the Time Bandit. I watch these captains with absolute respect as they command the Sea, charismatically surly but with a soft spot revealed in their boyish humor and celebratory behavior upon striking "gold." This lifestyle seems to be a calling that they could not avoid and so, they commit to the challenges and dangers because it is a passion coursing through their veins and family heritage.

As rough around the edges as they seem, these captains know their stuff and get it done. You don't just head out into the Bering Sea and cruise around. This is no three hour tour! Not only must they know how to navigate, use complex technological equipment, deal with weather, manage a crew, assess and repair boat maintenance/damages, manage the deck operations, etc. But it seems that these captains possess a sacred and awe-worthy intuition about where to crab and oh, are they superstitious! Bad juju is taken very seriously!

What goes on down on the deck effectively illustrates why this is the deadliest job in the world. Highly orchestrated and highly dangerous, swells bouncing the boat up and down like a rubber duck... deckhands throw, pull, lift, empty, fill, shift, and maneuver steel cages (pots), ropes, hooks, bridles, pulleys, and a myriad of other equipment. A foot caught in a rope going overboard with a pot is an ever-present danger and one can only imagine the tremendous difficulty of keeping your footing on a boat out on the Bering Sea. Watching greenhorns struggle, some eagerly rising to the challenge and others collapsing completely, puts additional perspective on how taxing this job is. Nope, this is no job for sissies and I find that I love the show even more for that fact.

I've been continually intrigued by my love of the show. What attracts me to these hard-edged fisherman and the immense Bering Sea? I think, in large, masculinity, adventure, courage, the human spirit, the Hero's Journey of Separation, Initiation and Return. Initially, upon starting this post, I thought about paradox and still do where my love of this show is concerned, but that is a long post in and of itself and so, I'll dive into that at another time. However, the Hero's Journey seems a more compelling pull for me where this show is concerned. A pull I was not fully aware of until I sat down and got into this post.

These men heed to the call to adventure and are put to the test repeatedly in more than just physical ways. They simultaneously and repeatedly respect and confront one of the most intimidating forms of nature. And upon returning, many embark yet again the next season on this Hero's Journey. This has me thinking about my own journey and so, I realize that I derive much motivation and inspiration from the glimpses of these men on their journey. I esteem their courage and harness their masculinity, so that I can call upon my own courage and masculinity. It is a constant reminder that one can't experience the Hero's Journey in their own backyard, now can they, LBR?

Crab has never tasted better to me since falling in love with this show and I have very fond memories of crab and that very boyfriend that turned me onto the show. From that delightfully lazy, white and snowy winter day, eating a plate of crab while standing in his kitchen watching college basketball in his ridiculously-but-comfortably-too big hoop shorts... to our excursion at Newport... crabbing ourselves off the dock and although not catching anything, enjoying the experience and then really enjoying samplers at Rogue Brewery.

And so, aspirations of the Hero's Journey simultaneously harmonize with an immense contentedness with what is in our "backyard" that we often overlook. And who thought a bad ass documentary-like show on crab fishing could evoke such?! Me, of course!

Updated May 4th: Thanks to Morgan at the Cornelia Marie website for his mention of this post on his Captain's Blog. And thanks to all the fans of the Cornelia Marie and "Deadliest Catch" for checking this post out.

*If this idea of the Hero's Journey intrigues you in the least, Lynne Milum's "The Hero's Journey: A Campbellian Look at the Metaphorical Path to Personal Transformation" is a great read and not long at all. This is the article linked above.

**Photos from here, except for the last photo, which is from here.


Randal Graves said...

The natural beauty and violence of nature, humanity following some primordial archetype, and the fruits of their quest are going to end up on a plate at some upscale restaurant where the diner's deepest physical excursions were gym class at some beyond-exclusive prep school. I find that mildly comical, but I like to engage in class warfare, apparently. ;-)

La Belette Rouge said...

As you know, the He-weasel LOVES this show. I used to marvel at what the real reason was that he found it so compelling. When I would ask her would answer, "I don't know. I just like it."I just didn't get it. But, you have done a great job illuminating the deeper meaning of a show that is seemingly about "the crabs."
"I'm a cowboy; on a steel horse I ride. Wanted...dead or alive." Ah, yes! That is the anthem of the modern day hero. Campbell would have loved it.

Morgan said...

I enjoyed your writing and blogged about it. I hope our fans come and read this great post.

Anonymous said...

I've never seen the show but they have made into a video game. I'm not sure how that would go....

b said...

Randal... That contrast is more than mildly comical! :)

LBR... I can sit and watch this show for hours, jaw dropped. Truly, Discovery does a good job with the show but it's all about the personalities of the captains and deckhands. And you know they are real people being themselves for the most part. I love it! And Campbell would have too, no doubt!

b said...

Morgan... Thank so much for linking to my blog and for the very kind remarks. I'm glad you enjoyed the post and I too hope that fans will enjoy and appreciate it as well!

F.O.T.... Oh, it's such a great show. I heard about the video game recently. I can imagine how they might put crab fishing into a game. Still, it can't touch watching these guys. As I said to LBR above, the work they do is certainly a part of the appeal, but more than anything (for me at least), I'm really drawn into the show because of the guys, their personalities, etc.

carra said...

The seamen are sooo superstitious! My dad is a captain, and he told me all about red cats, Friday the 13ths, the earrings from passing different places and so on. I was always attracted to it, but I never felt THAT pull, disappointing my father, but making him proud for other things. I can tell you one thing: The sea is in their blood, there is nothing in the world these men love more.

Lynn said...

I LOVE this show. Was lured by my husband and we keep watching the repeats on Discovery. I have a profound respect for all of them, before I'd just eat crabs. Now I think of hardships and lives sacrificed for this pleasure we call a dish.

Great post, now we have something in common, The Deadliest Catch, raspberries and France. I'm linking you!

b said...

Carra... They really are superstitious and I love hearing about the many superstitions they hold and where they came from. I agree wholeheartedly that the sea is in their blood. It seems to be a very unique calling and the love of their lives.

Lynn... I'm so glad to hear you also love the show. I too can't get enough of it! Crab truly does taste better to me now and the show has definitely enhanced my appreciation for all that goes on to make food appear before us. I have such a profound respect for fishermen, farmers, etc.

Yes, great things to have in common! Thanks for linking me! I've done the same with your blog. :)

Anonymous said...

I first read this blog after I linked on it from the DC website. I normally don't tell people they are good writers, but I felt compelled to compliment you on your writing skills. Your descriptive way of writing makes the subject you are discussing seem to come to life.

b said...

Anonymous... Thank you so much for this comment. I can't tell you how grateful I am that you went out of your way to leave such a thoughtful response. It really means a lot to me! I'm glad you enjoyed the post and hope you'll return sometime!

Kike said...

Short animated movie about the "Hero´s Journey":