Read Into the Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking of El Faro by Rachel Slade Online

Into the Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking of El Faro

A Perfect Storm for a new generation, Rachel Slade's Into the Raging Sea is a masterful page-turning account of the El Faro's sinking.Ben Mezrich, bestselling author of The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of FacebookThe one account Ive read that solves the riddle of El Faro convincingly and thoroughly. Superbly written, Into the Raging Sea deserves a place on the bookshelf of modern maritime classics. Even those who have followed El Faro closely will find major surprises here.Robert Frump, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Until the Sea Shall Free Them: Life, Death, and Survival in the Merchant MarineOn October 1, 2015, Hurricane Joaquin barreled into the Bermuda Triangle and swallowed the container ship El Faro whole, resulting in the worst American shipping disaster in thirty-five years. No one could fathom how a vessel equipped with satellite communications, a sophisticated navigation system, and cutting-edge weather forecasting could suddenly vanishuntil now.Relying on hundreds of exclusive interviews with family members and maritime experts, as well as the words of the crew members themselveswhose conversations were captured by the ships data recorderjournalist Rachel Slade unravels the mystery of the sinking of El Faro. As she recounts the final twenty-four hours onboard, Slade vividly depicts the officers anguish and fear as they struggled to carry out Captain Michael Davidsons increasingly bizarre commands, which, they knew, would steer them straight into the eye of the storm. Taking a hard look at America's aging merchant marine fleet, Slade also reveals the truth about modern shippinga cut-throat industry plagued by razor-thin profits and ever more violent hurricanes fueled by global warming.A richly reported account of a singular tragedy, Into the Raging Sea takes us into the heart of an age-old American industry, casting new light on the hardworking men and women who paid the ultimate price in the name of profit....

Title : Into the Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking of El Faro
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Number of Pages : 416 pages
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Into the Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking of El Faro Reviews

  • Allen Adams

    So much of our country’s history is bound up in the sea. Our relationship to the ocean has defined us in many ways over the years. Even now, our waterways play vital roles in the way our nation operates. But all that time at sea comes with risk; it’s risk that we often forget or dismiss, but it never goes away.

    And sometimes, it makes its presence known.

    On Oct. 1, 2015, the merchant ship El Faro ran into Hurricane Joaquin off the Bahamas and sank, killing a

  • Amy Kolczak

    The "story" is compelling and worth reading - I would liken the telling of the core story to be like Radium Girls. However, the author strays frequently to other topics, politicizing many of them. Even as someone who likely shares similar views as the author, I found these rabbit pursuits to be distracting from the core event.

  • Lisa M Friesen

    This was a fascinating book. True stories are usually too wordy and boring, this was neither. The author wrote a dire story of American Cargo Shipping. All the regulations, the broken rules and the breakdown of communication to the large corporations who own the ships. These CEOs in charge care little about the crew and more about the cargo and profit. And never in this story did the author forget about the loss of 33 lives. A must read that will keep you at the edge of your seat.

  • David V.

    Received as an ARC via my employer Barnes & Noble. Started 4-9-18. Finished 4-12-18. Investigative journalism at its best. Will keep you involved from beginning to end like a good fiction book but it's all true. The sinking of this cargo ship and the deaths of its crew could have been avoided but for the ignorance, apathy, greed, and emotional instability of the parties involved. This book should be used as a textbook in all maritime academies in the world. It would also help to have it be r ...more

  • Matt

    “Over the radio, [Captain Michael] Davidson told his crew to throw their rafts in the water and get off the ship. But how could they even walk out onto the deck in those winds, let alone deploy a life raft? Everything – people, rafts, life suits – would be whipped away by [Hurricane] Joaquin and into the waves, or thrown back against the ship’s steel hull to be crushed. The air was solid with salt and water. You couldn’t breathe out there. The crew probably crowded around the door leading to the

    One of the Falcon’s crew must have wedged himself against a bunk in the fo’c’sle and written furiously beneath the heaving light of a storm lantern. This was the end, and everyone on the boat would have known it. How do men act on a sinking ship? Do they hold each other? Do they pass around the whisky? Do they cry? This man wrote; he put down on a scrap of paper the last moments of twenty men in this world. Then he corked the bottle and threw it overboard. There’s not a chance in hell, he must have thought. And then he went below again. He breathed in deep. He tried to calm himself. He readied himself for the first shock of sea…

    I’ve always loved this passage, because it really captures the haunting nature of a disaster on the ocean, so far from help you might as well be in outer space. For hundreds of years, to be lost on high seas meant to be lost to the world. It meant dying without a trace. It meant dying without the people who loved you ever being certain that you were gone. Ships disappeared into the vastness, swallowed whole. Men left home and never returned. There’s a reason that the platforms atop New England houses were called widow’s walks. A plane can crash without survivors, but typically there is wreckage, a final resting place. For much of human history, that was not true when it came to the vessels plying the earth’s waters.

    On October 1, 2015, the SS El Faro sank in the Bahamas. None of the crew of thirty-three men and women survived. In days past, this would have been another of countless maritime mysteries.

    But this sinking had a twist. The El Faro had a voyage data recorder (VDR) installed on her bridge. Like the cockpit voice recorder in a doomed airliner, the VDR captured conversations that took place in the most important part of a ship. Unlike most CVRs, however, El Faro’s VDR didn’t just capture the final thirty minutes of the disaster; it captured twenty-six hours of conversation over the course of El Faro’s final voyage. These conversations were painstakingly transcribed and made available to the public. In very real terms, then, we know more about the command decisions that led to El Faro’s sinking than we know about the Titanic, which left 705 eyewitnesses to tell the tale (including the helmsman on the bridge when the she hit ice; the lookout who spotted the berg; and the second, third, fourth, and fifth officers of the deck).

    And it’s important to know about those command decisions, because the El Faro sinking is a bit unimaginable. How, in this day and age, with GPS in our pockets, can a ship like the El Faro sail directly into the eyewall of a Category 3 hurricane?

    Rachel Slade answers that question as best as possible, in her sometimes thrilling, sometimes frustrating account of the El Faro.

    Slade grabs your attention immediately, in the first chapter, which consists almost solely of a transcription of Captain Michael Davidson’s excruciating call to shore, to speak with his company’s (TOTE Maritime) designated representative. Instead of getting right through to this so-called “Qualified Individual,” Davidson is left repeating information to a call center operator, as though he has just phoned in to contest a credit card charge. All this while his ship was dying beneath his feet.

    Right after this heart-stopping beginning (and really, this story is so dramatic, it does not need a middleman; I suggest reading the transcripts), Slade cuts away, taking us to Jacksonville, Florida, before the El Faro sets sail. This is a narrative style that she employs throughout Into the Raging Sea. She will have a chapter on the El Faro, counting down the hours, the minutes, the seconds, as a monster storm erupts, and the ship sails right at it; then, just as the tension is starting to tighten, she will interrupt the main flow of the story for a cutaway chapter on various topics, such as the design of the El Faro, the corporate structure of TOTE Maritime, a primer on the Jones Act, or a biographical sketch of Captain Davidson. Eventually, right before the El Faro sinks, she leaves the ship entirely to cover the aftermath of the sinking, including the efforts to find the ship in water 15,000 feet deep. Only near the very end does Slade put us back on the bridge to recount the last act.

    I knew exactly what Slade was trying to do with this fractured chronology, and frankly, I think it worked pretty well. The shipboard scenes are so powerful, so potent, often told in the participants’ actual, recorded words, that it becomes too much to read all at once. The chapters away from the ship actually give you time to breathe, while also allowing Slade to give the sinking a fuller context. It is also an exercise in dramatic manipulation that any creative writing instructor would endorse.

    Unfortunately, the cutaway chapters are often a mixed-bag. At times, Slade seems to be trying to prove how much research she did, and how many people she talked to. There is a lack of focus, of organization, that makes things unnecessarily convoluted. Instead of tackling a subject in a coherent manner, she tends towards an oblique approach. When discussing globalization, for instance, she first forces the reader to endure her observations about doomsday preppers. What’s the connection? I don’t know or care. My mind sort of wandered off, along with the storyline.

    Another bothersome point: Slade tells us things she has no way of knowing. We have the voices of the crew, but that is audio alone. Nevertheless, Slade writes with certainty about Danielle Randolph’s bouncing ponytail, or another crewmembers “sullen” look, or how a third crew member ran his hands through his hair. How is she deriving this? I am okay with a bit of artistic license extrapolated from the audio. But if that’s the case, she should explain her method. There are no notes here, and Slade never divulges her process.

    While I’m complaining, I feel compelled to mention that I found over half a dozen grammatical mistakes. (Ever visit the Sunshine Sate? I hear it’s beautiful!). This makes me furious. If publishing is dying, it’s because its shot itself in the foot. Seriously, Harper Collins, you charge $27.99 for this, and no one, literally no one, proofed it? I’ll do it for free, if you send me the manuscript. (Also, I got annoyed that Coast Guard wasn’t treated as a proper noun. I’m not entirely sure I’m right, but it looked really weird un-capitalized).

    That said, the good far outweighs the bad. Slade has a real knack for taking concepts and explaining them in a coherent manner for laypeople. For example, her interview with shipbuilder John Glanfield does a fine job of illustrating the concept of downflooding angle, and the role that played in El Faro’s demise. Though it is not always perfectly organized, she covers a lot of ground, from climate change to deep-sea recovery to the Coast Guard-NTSB hearings. I appreciated the all-angles approach.

    This book didn’t quite have the extra special literary quality that I found in The Perfect Storm or in Robert Frump’s Until the Sea Shall Free Them (about the eerily similar Marine Electric sinking). In other words, this never gave me the chills. Still, Slade’s writing can be quite propulsive, especially a top-notch sequence on the Coast Guard’s Rescue Swimmers.

    She is also refreshingly blunt in her assessments. It is perhaps not surprising that she takes TOTE Maritime to task for its penny pinching and corner cutting. After all, the corporation, which exists inside another corporation, which was swallowed by a different corporation, and digested by a separate corporation, worked very hard to squeeze every last mile out of El Faro, all while refusing to update her safety features. (El Faro had open lifeboats. Like on the Titanic. Look at the pictures – they are the same! Remember the movie Captain Phillips? Those watertight, unsinkable capsules? Yeah, those might have helped). She is very hard on Captain Davidson, who misread his weather forecasts (which relied on extremely old data), ignored his own senses, and disregarded the crew who tried to tell him they were heading straight for Joaquin’s eyewall. It is difficult to write ill of the dead, especially so near in time. I think Slade did a good job in being evenhanded.

    Disasters are typically the sum of many mistakes, some large, others small; some long term, others instantaneous. By taking such a sweeping look at the El Faro sinking, Slade demonstrates there was no single cause. It was TOTE’s fault, for their aging, leaky, steam-propelled ship, which had Titanic’s lifeboats. It was the fault of a heating earth, which created an unpredictable and violent super-storm. It was the fault of Captain Davidson, whose every command was based on a faulty premise.

    But you don’t read a story like this just to point fingers and lay blame. You read it because there are humans involved, fighting like hell for their lives. That’s what strikes me the most about the loss of El Faro, the thing I can’t get out of my mind. It’s an image of Captain Davidson on that hopelessly slanting deck, knowing he’d screwed up, knowing that he’d made the mistake that would be his epitaph, knowing he was likely about to die. There he is, amid the howling winds and the crashing waves and the unending darkness, with his life measurable in minutes, telling one of his men that he would not leave him. ...more

  • Ira

    Compelling & Heartbreaking

    A difficult read due to the tragedy that could have been prevented. A gripping story of failure and heartbreak.

    Author wanders a little wide of the main narration a couple times but in the end brings the story together to its sad conclusion.

  • Susan

    A good story, a little too much detail about the technical aspects of what could have gone wrong with the ship so I skipped over those descriptions but the human interest part of the book is heartbreaking and you could feel the terror those people must have been feeling the last minutes of their lives on that ship.

  • John

    I'm a former merchant marine engineering officer and just finished reading Into the Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking of El Faro. I found it to be quite a well written book. It is unfortunate that the subject had to be the needless death of 33 mariners. When all was said and done, a summary question might be "how many mistakes does it take to sink a ship?"

    Kudo's to the author for doing surprisingly well writing the book despite lacking a nautical background. Slad