Book Review: On the Edge of Survival By: Spike Walker

Edge of Survival - Walker

On the Edge of Survival: A Shipwreck, a Raging Storm, and the Harrowing Alaskan Rescue that Became a Legend

By Spike Walker

My Rating: 5 Stars

Wow this was one exciting book.  I was kept on the edge of my seat from beginning to end.  Written by Spike Walker, who also brought us the books that inspired the highly popular television show “Deadliest Catch”, this book does not disappoint.  I’ve found that I like certain types of non-fiction books more than others and books about life on the sea are some of the best I’ve ever encountered.  And the fact that this book is about events that took place in Alaska makes it even better.  I’m sort of partial to that state you know…Anyways, this book, focuses more on the rescue of the stranded mariners and those on the Coast Guard rescue team who put their lives in danger to rescue the stranded ship crew.  Over all it’s one of the most exciting books I’ve read all year.


On a cold morning in December 2004 the Selendang Ayu, a giant freighter, bound for China lost it’s engine and was drifting on a collision course toward the Aleutian Islands.  Carrying over 400K gallons of oil, the Selendang Ayu posed a serious threat if it should run aground and start leaking oil in the vicinity of Unalaska Island which is part of the largest maritime seabird nesting areas in North America.  The damage to the environment would be devastating. In blizzard-like conditions, two H-60 Jayhawk helicopters race to the stranded ship to rescue the crew.  In a devastating turn of events, the rescue team becomes those who need rescued when one of the Jayhawks is hit with a rogue wave and crashes into the freezing arctic water.  In this book, Walker, retells the events of that night and the harrowing experiences for all involved.

My Thoughts

Wow, this was an amazing book.  I’ll admit that I’m very critical of authors who write about Alaska.  I was born and raised the wilds of Alaska and know first hand how unforgiving the country can be.  Alaskans know that you can’t let your guard down because the climate, the terrain and even the wildlife will kill you if you aren’t always on your toes.  When reading books about Alaska, I want to see that the author has done their research regarding this largest state in America.  It’s an amazing state and people either love it or hate it when the get there.  I’ll admit that I’m spoiled having been raised in this amazing state.  But I have never once taken it for granted in any way shape or form and I expect the same when I read about it.  This is where I give Spike Walker big kudos for doing such an overwhelmingly good job in doing it justice.  I can’t say that other books written about Alaska have been done with such honesty and realism as Walker.  It’s one of the main reasons I highly recommend this book.

Written with great suspense and heartfelt emotion, Walker, easily portrays the events that occurred during the rescue and humanizes all the Coast Guard personnel involved.  In Alaska, search and rescue by the Coast Guard is a dangerous job. And the teams involved in this rescue were brave, courageous and determined.  They never gave up in doing their job.  Walker has paid tribute to those who survived and those who lost their life in this rescue by retelling their story.  I highly recommend this book.  It’s fast paced, heart-stopping, thrilling and frustrating all rolled into one great story.  Check it out if you want a great inspirational real-life story.


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