Mary Katharine Ham
Well, the crab season is officially over. And I will never look at an all-you-can-eat crab leg buffet the same again.


I’ve been watching “Deadliest Catch,” a Discovery Channel mini-series about the world’s most dangerous profession—Alaskan crab fishing. The show follows a handful of fishing boats through the crests and troughs of a five-day crab season. Five days. Sounds easy, right? Not when there is a quota for the fleet and you’re competing against hundreds of other boats to haul in your share before Fish and Game calls the end of the season over a crackling radio.

Not when there’s 37-degree water, freak 45-foot waves, and nothing but an ice-slicked deck and railing standing between you and the Bering Sea.

The men work days-long shifts, grabbing two hours’ pillow time here and there, maximizing the number of 800-lb. crab pots they can throw and reel in during the abbreviated fishery. The pots, made of what looks like rusty chain link, crash into the sea and settle heavily on the green, muddy bottom, zipping 300 feet of rope over the railing behind them. Get a foot caught in that rope and you’re gone; hit that water without a survival suit and you’re gone; find your ship sitting under a squall and you’re quite possibly gone.

As you would imagine, the fishermen are gruff, nary a one without dirty facial hair and dirtier language.    

And I like them. Sure, there’s a glint of crazy in some of their eyes and more than a hint of a barfight in many of their smiles, but they’re all men who do hard work at great risk, hoping to hit it big, and go home better off. They understand the risks they take, they know the reward that’s possible, they weigh the costs and benefits, and they cast off.

These days, it’s helpful to watch a show like “Deadliest Catch” to remind you of what Americans can be—responsible, grimly determined, and just plain tough. Sometimes it’s easy to forget, especially so in the past couple of weeks.

First came the preeners of the Great Compromise:

"Thank God for this moment and for these colleagues of mine," said Sen. Robert Byrd.

"We have reached an agreement to try to avert a crisis in the United States Senate,” said Sen. John McCain.

In the Bering Sea, on a ship called the Maverick, men expend far fewer words on far braver acts than bucking one’s party leadership.

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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