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Would You Risk Your Life for Crab?
by Roy Witman © 2008

When we think of Alaskan king crabs, we generally envision the formal dining room on the luxurious Love Boat (Princess Cruises). Waiters serve an elegant meal on china plates atop white linen tablecloths adorned with flickering candles. But say “Alaskan king crab” to a deep-sea fisherman and he'll conjure up images of frigid cold days and frosty nights aboard vessels being tossed about on the icy Bering Sea. While you might not be willing to risk your life for king crab, the crab fisher is!

The True Price of King Crab

Ever wonder why the price of Alaskan king crab is so high? Because every season crab fishers literally put their lives on the line to bring back king crab. With subzero temperatures, life aboard ship is truly grueling and dangerous. The ocean spray freezes in midair. Pots (giant wire baskets used for catching crab) weighing over 700 pounds are pulled from the ocean only to freeze within seconds. In addition, the sea is in constant turmoil: tossing and turning the ship first to one side and then the other. One miscalculation, one slip of the foot, one seemingly minor accident and they could quite easily be pulled overboard where they would survive for only mere minutes.

How much is this life-threatening job worth? That depends on the season. Most often, crab fishers and the captain split the profits by a scale of percentages. If the haul is excellent, fishermen could easily make $80,000 or more per season, which lasts typically from October to January for golden and blue king crab. The red king crab season lasts only four days! If the season is poor, crab fishers might literally walk away with nothing.

With a fatality rate of 60 times that of the average worker in the United States, king crab fishers most commonly fall victim to hypothermia and drowning.

Is It Worth It?

Why do it? The job does have several benefits. For one, Alaskan red king crab is highly prized and always in demand, so job security is fairly certain. In addition, there is a great deal of money to be made in a short time. Crab for anywhere from four days to three months and then take the rest of the year off! The adventure can't be beat because there's constant action on the ships. And the scenery before and after the tour is simply amazing!

Alaska Cruises

The popularity of the Discovery Channel show Deadliest Catch has helped increase demand for king crab and for cruises to Alaska. Of course, Princess Cruises and other lines won't make you work for your dinner, but you can enjoy enormous king crab legs aboard ship and at land-based lodges.

You may not get to see the frozen sea spray of Bristol Bay, but you can walk across miles of frozen ground, as you visit ice bridges, ice pools, penguins, sea lions, puffins and other species. Glacier exploration is a highly popular excursion thousands participate in annually.

Part of the original gold rush, Alaska is also a prime location for mining gold. Visit past and present mines, and try your luck to see if you strike it rich!

The natural beauty and the food you'll remember forever. In addition to luscious king crab, you'll also find local wild-caught Alaskan salmon. Because of distance, these are delicacies most people have never experienced fresh.

Whether you dream of an outrageous adventure worthy of the crab fishers or you simply want to explore a mysterious and wild wonderland, head for Alaska for the time of your life!

Read more about Alaska Cruises.