Last Man Off by Matt Lewis

Last Man Off

Matt Lewis

A page-turning true story of exploration and survival that you won't be able to put down.  

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“A sinister version of The Perfect Storm. Thrilling.”—Sunday Times (UK)

For readers of The Perfect Storm, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and Into the Wild

There’s nothing that armchair adventure lovers relish more than a gripping true story of disaster and heroism, and Last Man Off delivers all that against a breathtaking backdrop of icebergs and killer whales. On June 6, 1998, twenty-three-year-old Matt Lewis had just started his dream job as a scientific observer aboard a deep-sea fishing boat in the waters off Antarctica. As the crew haul in the line for the day, a storm begins to brew. When the captain vanishes and they are forced to abandon ship, Lewis leads the escape onto three life rafts, where the battle for survival begins.

Advance Galley Reviews

Didn't get to read

Last Man Off by Matt Lewis is a well-written account of the ill-fated voyage of the fishing boat Sudur Havid in the southern seas off the coast of Antarctica. The book made me think of the TV show "The Deadliest Catch," but on steroids. Twenty three year old Matt Lewis, a Marine Biologist, is presented with the opportunity to gain experience in his field by becoming an observer on a fishing boat in the Antarctic Sea. Within a matter of days, he is in Cape Town, South Africa, but seems unprepared to board the Sudur Havid with its crew of 38, which is about to set off to catch Patagonian Toothfish, also known by the more attractive name of Chilean Sea Bass. The under-confidence of Mr. Lewis, combined with the overconfidence of the Captain (Bubbles) and First Mate (Boete) in charge of the fishing operation all contributed to an equation for disaster when stormy seas threatened. This book starts out a bit slowly, but gains momentum as the author becomes more comfortable and familiar with the layout of the ship and the day to day operations, while trying to keep out of the way of the crew as he performs his job. I enjoyed the ship surfing story which introduced me to several of the crew members who would play pivotal roles in this story. I recommend this book without hesitation-it is quite a good read. Well done, Mr. Lewis.

Matt Lewis was one of 38 crew members aboard the South African fishing boat, the Sudur Havid. Lewis was on the fishing expedition as a scientific observer/marine biologist. The Sudur Havid's crew was fishing in the icy waters of the Southern Ocean when a major storm caused massive swells. Continuing to fish through the storm seemed foolish to Lewis. Lewis and several crew members were in the fish factory when the ship began taking on large amounts of water due to the massive waves swamping the starboard side. The pumps were not working and became clogged with debris. Alerting the captain and engineers, Lewis expected a quick response and imagined an emergency plan would be carried out by those in charge. But help was not to come from anyone. Lewis still believed the vessel could be saved. He could not have envisioned the horrific moments ahead for the Sudur Havid. She was going to sink. It was inevitable. Thinking quickly, Lewis takes charge and tries to restore calm amongst the crew but they are all hopelessly unprepared for the disaster. In the end, only three life boats will be deployed. Lewis watches, horrified, as two experienced engineers commandeer one of the lifeboats. They are the only two men inside the fourteen man lifeboat. Why would they do such a thing? Perhaps they are taking the boat out to rescue those already in the water, Lewis thinks. Another raft contains fourteen more men. Matt Lewis helps all of his fellow mates as best he can, risking his life to ensure every soul is off of the sinking, doomed Sudur Havid. Lewis boards the final lifeboat but it has sustained damage from being knocked against the hull of the ship by the waves. The boat takes on water and the men are forced to sit in -1° water temperatures, waist deep, while trying to remain conscious. And then they wait for help to arrive. No flares, no radio, no beacons. Time is quickly running out. It is impossible for a human to survive such frigid conditions. At this point, one can only hope for a miracle. This was a harrowing, heartbreaking account of the traumatic events that befell the crew of the Sudur Havid in June of 1998. WHY did the captain, officers, and engineers ignore the plea for help? Why were proper emergency drills not practiced? Why did those in charge behave as they did? Horrendous mistakes are made and most were completely avoidable. Necessary precautions were not taken to ensure the safety of those aboard. Absolutely tragic and sad. Matt Lewis was a true hero. I couldn't put this book down. Wish it would've turned out differently. Utterly senseless.

I enjoyed this book. Having seen The Perfect Storm and episodes of The Deadliest Catch and Lobster Wars, it was easy for me to picture things on the boat. The men on the boat were well described, and I kept wishing the story was fiction so that it could have a happier ending. Parts of the book had me almost panicking because of the events that were happening. It was too bad that so many men lost their lives in this probably preventable tragedy. If you are a person who likes reading first hand accounts of difficult events, you will enjoy this, but I have many friends who would not want to go near this book because of that.

I have started this book and just cannot get into it.... :(

Matt Lewis is a newly graduated marine biologist looking for his first job when he takes a position as an Observer on a commercial fishing vessel in Antarctic waters. He's a little disturbed when he first sees his new home and workplace, the Sudar Havid, an aging and much-modified fishing boat of Dutch ownership and South African crew. In the coming weeks, though, he gets to know the crew, the boat, and the life, and is fully a part of the crew by the time they run into real trouble. They're a good half full of fish, and newly refueled off the Falklands, when they run into stormy weather and rough seas. Being so heavily laden gives them less maneuverability, and the captain and the fishing master are reluctant to stop fishing and reorient the boat. As the boat takes on water, Matt and others struggle to get the pumps started, without success. When the captain gives the order to abandon ship, it's late, and a desperate scramble. That's when the real struggle to survive begins. Lewis lets us get fully acquainted with the boat, its officers, and its crew before we face the terror and hardship of abandoning ship and trying to survive in poorly equipped life rafts in heavy seas. We also see the rush of competitor commercial fishers--competitors under normal circumstances--to provide rescue in a part of the world where all the authorities are too far away to help. In disasters, the fishermen only have each other. Matt Lewis tries to be as honest as possible about both his crewmates and himself, in their strengths, weaknesses, and faults in the crisis. This is both an exciting adventure, and a thoroughly human story, that held my interest all the way through. Recommended. I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via Penguin's First to Read program. This review appears on Goodreads at, and on my blog, Lis Carey's Library, at

A very exciting story! The beginning seemed to be a little slow and there was a lot of description in the first 10 chapters. I felt thre was too much description at first but when you start getting into the actual events those descriptions of people and their jobs seemed to help understand exactly what was happening. I enjoyed that the author told all of the details of the event, even the unpleasant details. But if you really want to know what he went through you must know all the hard, unimaginable things he had to deal with. A very moving story that will bring you to tears.

“If I was going to die then I would die doing my best, trying my hardest and by helping others. I would not panic, or fall apart.” I received this book as part of the Penguin First to Read program for an honest review. This is the true story of the sinking of a fishing boat the “Sudur Havid” and the men who survived and those that died. I found this book to be fast paced and harrowing as Matt Lewis boards a ship for his first post as an “observer” for the company. His job was to make sure that all laws were being followed per the Maritime Commission. What I discovered was how lonely and hard-working a crew on a fishing boat could be. The Captain and Engineers did not have enough drills on abandoning ship and when the event happened the crew floundered and were not prepared. They had 4 life boat/rafts, but only 3 were used and most likely one had only 2 crew members in it. There were little supplies on board the boats and if the Captain hadn’t been able to get an SOS message out they would probably all been lost. This story is a real tragedy and hopefully a lesson learned by all seaman everywhere. The next time you have fish for dinner, be thankful for the men who harvest them for you.

Wow! This was a very powerful story from a survivor of a fishing boat that went down in winter in the article. The details made me feel as if I was there and I am amazed at how many survived. Definitely a good read for those interested in nonfiction.

This book was part of a 'First To Read'. The book starts off with a scene on a life boat with the injured Captain calling out for his life long friend and comrade then flips to how the author became a part of the crew of this ship. I found this introduction to the author fascinating since many of my friends work with NOAA as marine scientists or at the local aquarium. His struggle to find a position after completing his Master's degree fit what I know from my friends. The descriptions of the boat and crew are excellent but they do go on for several chapters which may tax some readers. I would encourage the reader to continue because the rest of the book and the survival and rescue is not only fast paced but will stir the emotions of anyone who has even considered being at sea in a small fishing boat. I have already recommended this book to many of my friends and colleagues at the aquarium!

I received this book from First to read. This story of survival was told from the perspective of th last man off the boat and into a life raft. The tale begins with narrator talking about his decision to go out on a fishing boat, how life on the boat was and his experience in trying to escape from a sinking ship.

The story grabbed me right from the start. Just the idea of being a marine biologist is fascinating to me, so I enjoyed reading about how Matt found his job and the steps he had to go through before finally ending up on a ship. He did a great job of relaying exactly what it's like to be onboard a fishing vessel and what the comraderie is like amongst the crew. What took me by surprise was how much it made me think. I was taken aback by the actions of some of the crew and it really made me wonder how I would hold up in a life-threatening situation. I commend Matt for being a really good guy who somehow managed to take charge amongst a group of men who had loads more experience than he did.

Last Man Off definitely kept my attention. There was enough detail to make me feel as if I was right there with the crew. The story was well paced. I would definitely recommend it.

Last Man Off is a book I have already recommended to friends. It kept me very involved. It had a great pace that kept me turning the pages long into the night because I did not want to put it down. Mr. Lewis did a great job of telling his story and those of his other crew mates. The description of the boat made it easy to picture the scene and feel as if you were there too. The bravery of both the survivors and the casualties was inspiring.

I read a variety of fiction and non fiction but my all time favorite for non fiction is "survival" stories so I was very happy to get an advanced reading copy of Last Man Off. Normally I have about 3 books going at one time and alternate reading amongst the 3 but on occasion, I'll get a book that is just more interesting than the other 2 I'm reading and I focus on that book until it's done and that's what occurred with this book. The author pulled me into the story where I felt I was on that boat with him and then in the life raft. It's a tragedy for the lives lost but a blessing for the lives saved. I definitely recommend this book.

From time to time I share books I've read that really speak to me or I feel should be shared with you. This review is one of them. I chose to read Last Man Off as it is a true story of one man's account of survival in the Antarctic Seas. It was awarded The Mountbatten Maritime Award for best literary contribution Certificate of Merit “For his compelling account of the hardships of fishing in remote Antarctic waters, and of what it means to abandon ship in a severe storm with inadequate equipment and a crew unprepared for survival. The book is objective but non-judgmental in its descriptiveness, so heightening the true sense of disaster. The style makes the book accessible to a wide public, but it is also essential reading for seafarers, fishermen and yachtsmen, as it concerns attitudes to safety and survival. A truly life-affirming and influential work.” Matt does an excellent job bringing to life what he endured on the MFV Sudur Havid and the conditions the crew endured each time they left port. When I first began reading it immediately reminded me of "The Perfect Storm" but the more I read the more the differences became evident. Matt has a way of bringing you onto the boat, you can picture the cramped accommodations you feel the same worries as Matt as he discovers inadequacies. The further I got into the book the more difficult it became to set down. You can't help but look inside yourself and question what would you do in a situation like this. It takes a special person to ensure others are safe before you see to your own safety. The accounts Matt gives are very objective and I believe he did an excellent job of paying homage to those who were lost. Website for the The Last Man Off - I received access to The Last Man Off for free through the First to Read program.

Matt Lewis is a very good writer. The pacing of his story was excellent. The account of his time as an observer on a fishing boat in the southern ocean around South Georgia Island and the subsequent abandonment of it in a very bad storm was filled with detail. The days fighting for survival in the life raft were gripping. This is a book that will keep you reading through the night.

I really loved this book! It kept my attention and kept me wanting to read. The author did an amazing job of dragging the reader into the story! I would definitely recommend this book!'


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