There are many who’ve been fascinated with king crab fishing and the fishermen who do it. One such individual is Karen Ducey, writer and photographer. I ran into her galley of photos on the National Geographic website and understood right away that her pictures tell a remarkable story of Bering sea fishermen. In order to deepen her own understanding of this subject, Karen Ducey spent three years at sea during crab season(1993-1995), so I have no doubt that her photographs and captions were very carefully chosen. Please use the links provided to view her gallery on the National Geographic website.
Santa Claus climbing out of a chimney? No, a deckhand emerging from the hold of a fishing boat that sells cod bait to crabbers in port. “I shot this photograph of Dennis Scholl in February 1993 on the Sea Spider in Dutch Harbor, Alaska,” says Ducey. “He was preparing for a fishing expedition by hosing ice into a dark, empty hold. He had one of the hardest jobs of anyone I met; at sea he would slip vertically down a hatch wide enough for a codfish or a ray of light. During long, lonely evenings Scholl shoveled ice around codfish and stacked them. As rough seas pounded the boat, heavy codfish would sometimes drop down the hatch on top of his head.”
“Aboard the deck of the Big Valley, I was transfixed by the glassy eyes of Eric Grumpke and Barbara Stanwyck, star of the television show that is the boat’s namesake. Grumpke drove the crane that shifted gear and equipment on deck,” says Ducey. “Daylight begins at around 10:30 a.m. during Opilio crab season. The sun barely comes above the horizon before it begins its retreat back below the surface. Arctic nights last 18 hours. Our eyes adjust to the long winter nights, creating a glassy-eyed crew. The “Aleutian stare” is a common affliction everyone gets as a result of fatigue and being in this empty, gray world for indefinite periods of time.” Heart failure killed Grumpke only 19 days after this picture was taken.