Review of Into the Storm

Into the Storm: Two Ships, a Deadly Hurricane, and an Epic Battle for Survival by [Korten, Tristram]

Into the Storm

Tristram Korten

Ballantine Books

April 24, 2018

BlurbThe true story of two doomed ships and a daring search-and-rescue operation that shines a light on the elite Coast Guard swimmers trained for the most dangerous ocean missions

In late September 2015, Hurricane Joaquin swept past the Bahamas and swallowed a pair of cargo vessels in its destructive path: El Faro, a 790-foot American behemoth with a crew of thirty-three, and the Minouche, a 230-foot freighter with a dozen sailors aboard. From the parallel stories of these ships and their final journeys, Tristram Korten weaves a remarkable tale of two veteran sea captains from very different worlds, the harrowing ordeals of their desperate crews, and the Coast Guard’s extraordinary battle against a storm that defied prediction.
When the Coast Guard received word from Captain Renelo Gelera that the Minouche was taking on water on the night of October 1, the servicemen on duty helicoptered through Joaquin to the sinking ship. Rescue swimmer Ben Cournia dropped into the sea—in the middle of a raging tropical cyclone, in the dark—and churned through the monstrous swells, loading survivors into a rescue basket dangling from the helicopter as its pilot struggled against the tempest. With pulsating narrative skill in the tradition of Sebastian Junger and Jon Krakauer, Korten recounts the heroic efforts by Cournia and his fellow guardsmen to haul the Minouche’s crew to safety.

Tragically, things would not go as well for Captain Michael Davidson and El Faro. Despite exhaustive searching by her would-be rescuers, the loss of the vessel became the largest U.S. maritime disaster in decades. As Korten narrates the ships’ fates, with insights drawn from insider access to crew members, Coast Guard teams, and their families, he delivers a moving and propulsive story of men in peril, the international brotherhood of mariners, and the breathtaking power of nature.


Into the Storm is an extremely well-researched, well-presented, and thoughtful account of Hurricane Joaquin’s effect on two cargo ships. While I had followed the news reports  after sinking of the El Faro and read last year’s account after the voice recorder had been located, Tristram Korten introduced so many more details as well as paralleled the El Faro’s trip with that of the other doomed ship, the Minouche.

The reasons why most of the American public never heard accounts of the Minouche comes to light as do reasons why some commercial ships fly under flags of landlocked countries.

Korten introduces the reader to the sailors of both El Faro and the Minouche and to the Coast Guard personnel involved in the search and rescue. He has drawn some portraits of some remarkable individuals who will stay with the reader long after they have read the last words.

As well, Korten discusses hurricanes, how prediction has changed, and how, even though predictions are superior to how they once were, they are not without large degrees of uncertainty as proven by Joaquin. Global warming, regardless of whether certain individuals choose to believe the facts or not, is changing the intensity of these storms.

For this reader, even though I knew much of what happened with the El Faro, this was a tremendously involving as well as eye-opening account. Despite knowing how the story of El Faro ends, much like knowing the story of the Titanic, you wish that perhaps there was a castaway. And that is how the story of the Minouche balances the saga. The Captain of the Minouche not only heard and understood all of the sounds his ship made, knew when it was time to abandon ship, he had more than enough faith for every sailor on-board the ship.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

rating: 5-butterflies

5 out of 5 butterflies


2 thoughts on “Review of Into the Storm

  1. i would be so interested to read first hand account of weather patterns and how sea conditions influence the captain and sailors. this is a timely book review as Asia sees more over the capacity ships, ferries and boats sink and overturn with minimal investigations and lots of cover up. recent news of a sea tragedy involving a reckless group of students and teachers in south Thailand gives greater value to understanding the sea and her power. thank you for your review, i will be looking out for this book for sure.

    1. You are right. I am kind of a weather geek and have noticed the significant typhoons hitting Asia in the past few years. They have been very strong and deadly.
      Thank you for reading the review! 🙂

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