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Last Man off A True Story of Disaster, Survival and One Man's Ultimate Test by Matt Lewis

Last Man off A True Story of Disaster, Survival and One Man's Ultimate Test

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The cover portrays what looks like a tiny boat alone in an immense sea. The boat was not that tiny, it had a crew of 39, but the seas were truly immense as were the distances travelled. This was the South Atlantic and Matt Lewis is a rooky fisheries inspector on a South African trawler going after the lucrative Patagonian Toothfish (or Chilean Sea Bass as it’s known in expensive restaurants). Not in the best of condition, the ship was hauling in the fishing lines as a storm worsened, the lines should have been cut and buoyed but the thought of lost profit won out and they continued to fish, the water pouring in through the open hatches overwhelming the vessel which started to sink. Here the story becomes truly terrifying, one boat doesn’t work, the two last boats are overladen, including the one Matt Lewis is in. The cold, the danger, the dying and injured men, who will survive? Recreating the voyage, the sinking and the rescue (of some) conveys the immensity and extreme danger of the Southern Ocean in a way I have seldom read, one gains a real sense of the sea, its depths and the men who go to sea and hope. ~ Sue Baker

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The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. A rollicking story of heroism on the high seas this may be, but it is also an important contribution to the ongoing debate over safety at sea. The incident it relates occurs in the seas of Antarctica at the height of winter and during a terrifying storm. A small unseaworthy fishing boat is sinking, the captain is unable to take any decisions, the crew flees and it remains to a 23-year old marine biologist, the author, to save the day. With three life rafts, he facilitates an escape, but simply getting onto the rafts is just the beginning of the fight for survival.
~ Victoria Bentata


Last Man off A True Story of Disaster, Survival and One Man's Ultimate Test by Matt Lewis

In the depths of Antarctic winter, hundreds of miles from land or rescue, a small fishing boat is swallowed by waves as high as houses. The captain is fatally slow to act, and then paralyzed by fear. The officers flee for their lives. Only the actions of Matt Lewis, a 23-year-old British marine biologist and one of the most inexperienced men aboard, will save the lives of the South African crew. Lewis is the last man off the sinking boat, and leads the escape onto three life rafts. There the battle for survival begins.


'A story that reminds us of the unforgiving nature of the sea and the courage that lies within the everyday heroes that have found themselves in hell' -- Bear Grylls

'A dramatic tale of survival in one of the most brutal situations on earth. Feels like reading the diary of a doomed man ... so personal and chillingly real; totally takes you there in a way that is not always comfortable' -- Steve Backshall

'Reads like a sinister version of The Perfect Storm...Thrilling, compelling, unsettling, rewarding ... This breakneck race of a book isn't just required reading for fans of waterborne peril; Harvard MBAs could also scour the pages as a case study in dysfunctional workplaces and woeful man management. It's like the Perfect Storm, but with gruesomely, even murderously, imperfect people' Sunday Times

'A heart-thumping tale of tragedy and survival - minus the Hollywood ending' Daily Telegraph

About the Author

Matt Lewis was born in Bristol, England, in 1974. He trained as a marine biologist first at Bangor University and then at Aberdeen University. He now lives with his wife and two children in Aberdeen. Last Man Off is Matt's first book.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th April 2015


Matt Lewis

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Penguin Books Ltd


256 pages


Biography / Autobiography
eBook Favourites

True stories of heroism, endurance & survival
Maritime history



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