Tragic Facts About The Perfect Storm, The Shipwreck Story No One Lived To Tell

While the phrase "perfect storm" might suggest an event in which everything goes smoothly and no one gets hurt, the reality is unfortunately far less pleasant. The 1991 Perfect Storm was named by a meteorologist who saw three separate storms on track to converge off the coast of Nova Scotia. The weather systems combined to create a single massive nor'easter that inspired the 2000 film The Perfect Storm starring George Clooney. The storm claimed 13 lives in the process, including those of the six crew members aboard the Andrea Gail.

The vessel was at sea in search of swordfish when the storm hit Gloucester, MA; the crew never made it home. What's confounding is that no one knows exactly what happened to the Andrea Gail. The ship never sent a distress signal, and the crew's remains were never found, so the terrifying true story behind The Perfect Storm may stay hidden forever. 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

  • The Storm Took A Total Of 13 Lives

    From October 26 through November 1, 1991, a massive storm pummeled the East Coast as it traveled from Nova Scotia to Florida. The storm claimed a total of 13 lives, including those of the six crew members aboard the fishing boat Andrea Gail

    The Andrea Gail crew members who lost their lives were Michael "Bugsby" Moran and Dale R. "Murph" Murphy, both from Bradenton Beach, FL; Alfred Pierre from New York City, NY; and Frank William "Billy" Tyne Jr., Robert F. "Bobby" Shatford, and David "Sully" Sullivan, all from Gloucester, MA.

  • The Last Conversation The 'Andrea Gail' Captain Had Was 'Typical'

    Linda Greenlaw, a fishing boat captain from Maine, was the last person to speak to any of the crew on board the Andrea Gail. She said her last conversation with Captain Billy Tyne was "typical."

    Greenlaw told the Gloucester Daily Times, "I wanted a weather report, and Billy wanted a fishing report. I recall him saying, 'The weather sucks. You probably won’t be fishing tomorrow night.'"

  • No One Knows Exactly What Happened To The 'Andrea Gail'
    Photo: Donna Hink / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    No One Knows Exactly What Happened To The 'Andrea Gail'

    It's still unclear exactly what became of the Andrea Gail and its crew. While it does seem the crew perished, the details are a matter of speculation. No distress signal was ever sent, very little wreckage was ever found, and there were no survivors to interview or remains to examine.

    The lack of closure made the grieving process even more difficult for the crew's loved ones.

  • The Search For Survivors Was Called Off After 10 Days
    Photo: Unknown USCG member / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Search For Survivors Was Called Off After 10 Days

    While it seemed impossible for the Andrea Gail to have survived the storm, the Coast Guard still led a massive search covering 186,000 square miles over the course of 10 days. The only hint regarding the crew's fate was a small amount of wreckage, including an emergency beacon, an empty life raft, fuel drums, and a propane tank.

    After 10 days, the search was called off due to the low probability of the crew's survival. 

  • The Storm Caused Nearly $500 Million In Damage
    Photo: Donna Hink / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Storm Caused Nearly $500 Million In Damage

    In addition to the human cost, the storm also racked up nearly $500 million in damage. Hundreds of houses and businesses were lost in its wake. Roads and airports were closed, and 38,000 people lost power.

    While this was substantial, the damages were actually less severe in many areas than those caused by other large storms. The lighter toll was said to be attributed to the decreased amount of rainfall and a lack of foliage due to the winter season. 

  • The Families Weren't Thrilled With The Movie, But Most Appreciated The Book

    Many people are aware of the Andrea Gail tragedy thanks to The Perfect Storm, the 2000 film starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. Unfortunately, some of the families members of the departed crew were so unhappy with the movie that they filed a lawsuit.

    Filed by the family of Captain Billy Tyne, the lawsuit charged Warner Bros. with "unauthorized commercial misappropriation and invasion of privacy." They claimed they had not given permission to use Tyne's likeness, and that the film had unfairly depicted him as incompetent. According to Warner Bros., the law did not require them to obtain permission to depict a historically important event. Ultimately, the Florida Supreme Court threw out the case.

    In contrast, Sebastian Junger's novel of the same name was considered to be quite fair and well researched. Maryanne Shatford, sister of crew member Bobby Shatford, told she's glad to have both versions: "They were all like the characters in the book. It was the movie that was too Hollywood. They wanted it to be a story more than it was between the characters... but even though they didn’t get [them] all right, the people were unbelievably nice, all the actors and the producers."