I recently went on a Search & Rescue reading binge, given that my own SAR pager has been quiet for the past few weeks, which is quite unusual. Among the stack of books I've read about the lost, the stranded, the injured and the rescued, my favorite was Coming Back Alive: The True Story of the Most Harrowing Search and Rescue Mission Ever Attempted on Alaska's High Seasby Spike Walker.
This is a book about eight amazing rescue missions off the coast of southeastern Alaska, culminating in the edge-of-your-seat account of the Coast Guard's efforts to save the lives of five crewmen from the fishing vessel La Conte, which sunk in 100-mile per hour storm winds and record 90-foot seas in January, 1998. Without a life raft, the men are left to drift in the freezing water for hours, as three different helicopter crews try in turn to save them.
This was one of those "I don't care how tired I'll be at work tomorrow, I have to keep reading" books. In fact, I was so intrigued that after finishing "Coming Back Alive," I started following Coast Guard SAR headlines on Twitter with links to their news releases.
Author Spike Walker worked for years as a deckhand in Alaska. He researched "Coming Back Alive" meticulously, through hundreds of hours of interviews with survivors.