, Gloucester, MA

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October 29, 2011

What really happened to the Andrea Gail?

In the absence of survivors, eyewitnesses or wreckage, no one can say with certainty what happened during the final hours aboard the Andrea Gail, other than she disappeared into the cold waters east of Nova Scotia.

But this week, upon the 20th anniversary of the vessel's loss and the so-called Perfect Storm, speculation continues to swirl:

How did the Andrea Gail meet her fate? Did it happen just as portrayed in the movie, when she flipped over trying to conquer an enormous wave? Did anything other than fierce weather contribute to her demise?

Many experts agree that a 72-foot fishing vessel like the Andrea Gail would have little chance surviving the convergence of multiple weather systems now referred to as The Perfect Storm, which included hurricane force winds and wave heights of more than 60 feet.

According to the 1993 U.S. Coast Guard's investigative report, the last communication with the Andrea Gail was on Oct. 28 with another fishing vessel, the Hannah Boden. The report, however, does not reflect the time of the communication.

The Andrea Gail was approximately 150 miles east of Sable Island, presumably heading home to Gloucester — but possibly headed inland for shelter or fuel. It is unknown when or how the fishing vessel lost her radio, or how far she traveled after the radio failed.

"My last conversation with Billy was typical of any that I would have with a vessel 600 miles west of me," said Linda Greenlaw, former captain of the Hannah Boden. "I wanted a weather report, and Billy wanted a fishing report. I recall him saying, 'The weather sucks. You probably won't be fishing tomorrow night.'"

In contrast with the storyline in "The Perfect Storm" movie, Greenlaw says she did not place a distress call on behalf of the Andrea Gail.

"Without a distress call (directly) from the imperiled vessel, the Coast Guard will not initiate a search until the vessel is five days overdue in port," Greenlaw said.

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