The Captains of Thor — Online Version


The Captains of Thor — What Really Caused the Loss of the SS El Faro

By Robert R. Frump

(All Chapters to date.) 


Serializations of books and novels were popular in the 19th Century with Dickens and others publishing chapter-by-chapter before they were finished.  The practice is alive and well in modern times. My friend and former colleague Mark Bowden published the heart of “Black Hawk Down” as a series in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

I’m going to take my own humble shot at such an undertaking here, with a book-length non-fiction narrative about the SS El Faro. I’ll endeavor to post at least one chapter per month and with luck finish a book-length account of the tragedy and its aftermath by the end of the calendar year. 

A few notes: This is an examination of a tragedy that has been well-researched and investigated — heroically so at times — by the United States Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board. Three very well-done books have been published.  All of these efforts produced detailed recommendations and observations and all are publicly available. I commend them to you. 

My effort touches on the broad sweep and events of the tragedy and investigation but if you want the detailed story of the final voyage of the ship, you’re better off with the other books.  My main goal here is to show how the SS El Faro fit into a larger system and culture — one that I have been covering off and on as a journalist and author for 38 years.  

It’s this system, I feel, that will result in another SS El Faro some day unless it is reformed. 

Another note on style.  My preference in non-fiction is “narrative.”  In other words whenever I can, I tell a story and show what is happening, I prefer that to “telling” the reader because I think “showing” is more readily absorbed.  Humans learn through stories. Story telling rather than a lecture better illustrates the emotions at play here, as well as the moods, culture and vibe of the ship and the industry.  

 And with that, enough “telling.”  With luck, we’ll be done by year’s end.

And, oh, if you’d like to speed the plow, so to speak, keep me in caffeine.

Vigil for crew members of El Faro

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Buy me a cup of coffee to keep this series perking.

Caffeine helps. The faster I write, the faster the series gets published. You’ll see the full work published here sooner than later. Anything that doesn’t go to caffeine goes into research, network costs and getting the word out. ——The Author