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Is The Perfect Storm a True Story?

August 5, 2020
4 min read

Wolfgang Peterson’s biographical disaster drama, ‘The Perfect Storm’ (2000), is a visually dazzling depiction of man’s courage versus nature’s wrath. The movie stars George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, John Hawkes, William Fichtner, Michael Ironside, John C. Reilly, Diane Lane, Karen Allen, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.

The film follows the story of Captain Billy Tyne and his crew aboard their fishing vessel “Andrea Gail”. Set in 1991, ‘The Perfect Storm’ starts off by showing audiences the everyday lives of fishermen and their families. Billy Tyne captains the commercial fishing boat “Andrea Gail” and is a bit concerned with poor catch and therefore, convinces his crew for one more late-season fishing trip. They head out past their usual fishing grounds, leaving a tropical storm behind them.

Their luck turns and they are able to get a good catch but in the middle of fishing, their refrigerator breaks down. This poses a serious problem for them since the only way to sell their fish before it spoils is to sail immediately back to the shore, right through the storm. After debating whether they should set sail through the building storm or wait it out and let the fish rot, the crew decides to risk it through the storm.

Sadly, it turns out that they have underestimated how bad the storm is. As they head back home, they realize that the storm has grown quite big, and is now a confluence of two weather fronts and a hurricane, with waves reaching as high as fifty feet. There are repeated warnings from other ships for Andrea Gail to turn back but they lose their antenna, amidst other calamities. Captain Linda Greenlaw of sister ship Hannah Boden (which is another vessel owned by the same company) sends a mayday call for help on the behalf of Andrea Gail, but the helicopter rescue attempt fails miserably.

A couple of people in the crew are thrown overboard and the rest are trapped inside when the ship ultimately overturns and sinks into the Atlantic. There are no survivors and all of the crew are declared lost at sea after a few days of searching.

Is The Perfect Storm Based on a True Story?

Yes, The Perfect Storm is based on a true story. It’s an adaptation of the non-fiction book by the same name from author Sebastian Junger, which charts the course of actual events that happened between October 28, 1991, and November 04, 1991, when North America was hit by the “Perfect Storm” (also known as the “No-Name Storm”).

Junger’s book features mainly the story of Billy Tyne’s crew aboard the Andrea Gail. It also narrates the story about the rescue of a three-person crew of sailboat “Satori” (renamed “Mistral” in the movie) during the storm by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tamaroa (WMEC-166).

But the movie is not entirely factually correct.

The events that are portrayed in the movie after the Andrea Gail’s last radio contact are based on pure speculation and completely fictionalized, as the boat and the bodies of the crew were never found. So no one actually knows how things exactly went down after the Andrea Gail lost radio contact.

Also, contrary to the movie’s storyline, Captain Linda Greenlaw never placed a distress call on the behalf of the Andrea Gail because according to her account, they never indicated they were in trouble. They just never came back. She also has said, since the release of the film, that the movie shows the crew consciously deciding to sail back through the hurricane even though they are fully aware of the danger, but this is not how things actually transpired. According to Linda, the fact was that the Andrea Gail was already three days into the journey back home when the storm hit suddenly and whatever happened to the ship happened very quickly.

There are a few other discrepancies and deviations from the book and the actual events, but mostly ‘The Perfect Storm’ is a dramatized but close to true depiction of a team’s battle with the sea.

Read More: Is Behind Enemy Lines a True Story?

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