Deadliest Catch exclusive: Survival and death on the Bering Sea, a dramatic rewind

Captain Keith Colburn is shown in deep reflection as he deals with a leaking boat and bad news on the radio.Pic credit: Discovery
Capt. Keith Colburn got the news about his father while the show was in production. Pic credit: Discovery

The Emmy-winning documentary series Deadliest Catch is a 24/7 event filmed in crabbing season for several vessels which set out from Dutch Harbor.

It has been broadcast for 15 seasons. The course of the series has seen death, maiming, and injuries galore.

Discovery sent Monsters & Critics an emotional exclusive clip that recaps the agony and the ecstasy of manning a crab boat. Mostly the agony.

In the clip, we hear the voices of Captains Sig Hansen, Jake Harris, Keith Colburn, and others who express their worries when facing bad news. They all wish they had as many good days as they’ve had bad.

The most poignant moment is the close-up shot of Captain Phil Harris who is seen unconscious and on oxygen. He had suffered a major stroke, as we hear and see his son Jake, gutted and holding his head as he says: “My dad had a stroke… oh my god…”

This happened during the season six opilio crab season of Deadliest Catch. Captain Harris died from intracranial hemorrhage on February 9, 2010.

A few seasons back, Captain Sig Hansen suffered a heart attack while filming. When it happened, the feisty Norwegian fisherman wanted to keep going, but his crew intervened and he was air-lifted to a medical facility in Anchorage, Alaska.

In the clip, Sig is shown when suffering a cardiac event and Keith Colburn is shown as he receives the terrible news over the radio phone that guts him on camera.

The sea has no mercy and often times all of the fleet are so removed from shore that Jake is filmed in the captain’s cabin and says: “Not even the helicopters could make it [out here].”

After spotting a leak and hole in the hull filling his galley with water, Captain Keith says: “Every time I come out here she tries to break me.”

The series portrays real-life events that happen off the boat as well as on board, from personal drama to addiction issues, family members who die while their loved one is out to sea, and captains who experience life-threatening health events.

There’s no debate, crab fishing is up there as one of the deadliest professions. Being hired and working aboard fishing vessels in the perilous sea is a badge of honor, and it is also a matter of time before something befalls the “lucky” deckhand.

Deadliest Catch fatalities have included F/V Maverick captain Blake Painter, found dead in his home in Astoria, Oregon. Justin Tennison, a deckhand on the troubled Hillstrand vessel Time Bandit, was found dead in a Homer, Alaska. Captain Tony Lara (Cornelia Marie) died of a heart attack in Sturgis, South Dakota.

There have been many filmed injuries, but one of the most serious altered the cast of the series. David “Beaver” Zielinski, a deckhand for the Time Bandit, nearly lost his hand in a freak fireworks accident and he sued the Hillstrands.

A jury found for him (millions) and now the Time Bandit is for sale.

Deadliest Catch airs Tuesday at 9/8c on Discovery.

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