Crab fishing series an unlikely hit

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Deadliest Catch returns for fourth season

Once again, the crab-fishing boats turn into the stiff headwinds of the Bering Sea, battered by waves the size of four-storey buildings while, on deck, deckhands take time out from trolling for crabs to smash away the ice with sledgehammers so the boats dont become too heavy and capsize in the roiling grey seas.

Once again, the crab-fishing boats turn into the stiff headwinds of the Bering Sea, battered by waves the size of four-storey buildings while, on deck, deckhands take time out from trolling for crabs to smash away the ice with sledgehammers so the boats dont become too heavy and capsize in the roiling grey seas.

Its a new season of Deadliest Catch, Discovery Channels unlikely hit documentary series, and this time the crab-fishing boat crews of the Time Bandit, Cornelia Marie and other vessels will experience serious injuries in their day-to-day battle against 100 km/h winds, subzero temperatures and vicious squalls.

Returning this season: the men of the Northwestern, skippered by Capt. Sig Hansen; the crew of the Cornelia Marie, commanded by Capt. Phil Harris, this time sailing with his grown sons Jake and Josh; and the optimistically named Wizard, skippered by Capt. Keith Colburn and this time featuring a pair of first timers, or so-called greenhorns. There are others, too - and this time not all of them will make it through the crab season unhurt.

Thom Beers, Deadliest Catchs producer for four years and a reality-TV veteran who hired camera crews straight off Eco-Challenge and Survivor to capture live images of the crab fishermen at work, still remembers his first experience on the high seas off the windward side of the Aleutian Islands, two million square kilometres (775,000 square miles) of inscrutable blackness and a certain rugged beauty.

Beers was a neophyte, a dilettante - a tourist, almost. While the crab fishermen brave the elements for weeks, even months at a time, he was on the water just 11 days that first time.

I can tell you honestly when I came off the boat that first time, after three boats sank around me and 11 guys drowned and they never found the bodies, I felt like I had spit in the eye of a devil, Beers said at a conference with reporters prior to Deadliest Catchs season debut on the U.S. Discovery Channel.

Deadliest Catchs fourth season makes its Canadian debut Tuesday, May 6 on Discovery.

Each season, 250 boats head out 400 km to sea - 1,500 men and women, each fishing up to 22 straight hours at a time, all for five bucks a pound, or about $10 a kilogram.

Theyre adventure seekers, Beers explained. Its the allure.

Deadliest Catch is no ordinary reality-TV show.

This is real people, Beers said. This is a real reality series. Its got a ticking clock. It has people facing every kind of challenge, known and unknown. It has rewards. It has good guys and bad guys. It really is a reflection of the human condition.

And the stakes couldnt be higher.

The last season, we had somebody go overboard, Beers recalled. Not in our boat, but on a boat next to ours. We were out there searching for him, because there was a possibility he was still alive. And they actually found him. He had a faint heartbeat. They picked him up - a dramatic rescue 200 miles at sea - and they took him off in a helicopter. And he didnt survive. He passed away. The sad part was, this was a family of fishermen from Texas, and it was the second time it had happened to this poor mother in seven years. She lost two sons to the ocean - to the sea.

They average a death a week in that industry. Thats why its the deadliest job in the world.

Organizations: Time Bandit, U.S. Discovery Channel

Geographic location: Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, Texas

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