Oceans and Seas

the work of author Michael Krieger


Tramp: Sagas of High Adventure in the Vanishing World of the Old Tramp Freighters

Tramp: Sagas of High Adventure in the Vanishing World of the Old Tramp Freighters

Sensitive reportage and keen photography are effective complements in this charming and informative sea travelogue. Through these pages, readers will visit rustic cargo vessels in remote ports from the Peloponnesus, fjords and Fijis to the banks of the Yangtze and discover the freighters’ war-linked histories, the current rocky state of private sea trade and a smattering of practical navigational information. Freelance writer Krieger’s delight in the nautical world and compassion for financially insecure tramp owners are infectious. The adventures are recounted vividly – the massive S.T. Crapo’s precarious traversal of the narrow Saginaw River; cattle-loading on the Tasmania-bound Lady Jillian, and others.

Published by Chronicle Books August 1, 1986

A Book of the Month Club selection



Conversations With the Cannibals: The End of the Old South Pacific

Conversations With the Cannibals: The End of the Old South Pacific

In this captivating work of nonfiction, Mike Krieger succeeds brilliantly in his “attempt to capture the essence of this dying age, of this disappearing way of life and of the South Pacific’s cultures, subcultures, and extraordinary people who all reflect an epoch on the verge of extinction.” He takes readers on a wonderful fantasy-expedition from old tramp freighters to dugout canoes, over erupting volcanoes and through remote tropical rain forests to reach his isolated subjects. His openness as a traveler and journalistic skills combine to create a detailed collage of true stories, memorable for their vivid historical and natural contexts. Warmly accommodating a wide variety of island customs and mores, Krieger grounds every fact in vital human experience. He explores two Melanesian and two Polynesian countries where islanders still live according to old traditions. Krieger is the only living person to interview members of different cannibal tribes and to discuss with them the subject of cannibalism. He tells of a tribe whose name in translation means “I Will Kill You, ” and of a powerful ex-minister whose tyrannical control of a remote island evokes images from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. In beautifully clear prose, Krieger describes missionaries, cannibals, sorcerers, politicians, and princes – all with wonder and enthusiasm. With painterly discipline and design he chooses moments from his boat rides, jungle treks, and adventures with the people of the South Sea Islands, presenting a picture as intriguing in its particulars as in its overall effect.

L.A. Times Review

Harper Collins, Ecco Press, 1994



Where Rails Meet the Sea: America’s Connections Between Ships and Trains

Where Rails Meet the Sea: America’s Connections Between Ships and Trains

Region by region, “Where Rails Meet the Sea” chronicles the fascinating history of America’s railroad and maritime development through vividly detailed descriptions of the railroads’ waterfront operation, buildings, facilities, and majestic sea-faring fleet. In addition to these insightful historical accounts, hundreds of rare photographs and ephemera bring to life the rich history and lively character of the American port cities that thrived in the years between 1830 and 1960.

MetroBooks, 1998
All the Men in the Sea: The Untold Story of One of the Greatest Rescues in History

All the Men in the Sea:
The Untold Story of One of the Greatest Rescues in History

One of the most exciting sea rescues of the twentieth century occurred during a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico in 1995. Ever since, lawsuits have made it almost impossible to find out the complete story of what happened. Now Michael Krieger tells the heroic truth of this astonishing drama.

All the Men in the Sea begins in a cloud of silt peppered with 400-pound groupers 160 feet below the surface at the bottom of the Mexican Gulf where two divers are about to complete their work on a section of pipeline leading from the offshore oil field to the Yucatan Peninsula. The divers had to finish their section of pipeline so that the diving company could get their $27 million payment for the project. The company was behind schedule, but when Hurricane Roxanne approached, the divers had to return to the barge on the surface and its decompression chamber. Any mishap that might force them to leave this chamber prematurely would result in every blood vessel in their bodies popping like champagne corks.

Hundreds of workers lived on the barge, but the divers were the elite. It was the diver supervisor who told the barge’s captain that company officials back in Louisiana had decided that instead of going in to a safe harbor, the barge and everyone on it would ride out the hurricane under tow by the two tugboats standing by.

It was a fateful decision. At first the hurricane seemed to pass by, but when it made a U-turn and came back, the massive towlines connecting the tugs and the barge broke in steep 30-foot seas and 90-mile-an-hour winds. More than two hundred men abandoned ship into a raging watery catastrophe, none of them with any real hope of surviving. There was no one there to help them. Everyone knew tugboats couldn’t rescue men in seas like that…

As the sea crashed over them, the tugboat captains turned their vessels sideways to the massive, relentless waves, risking capsize and certain death. Those in the water who managed to hang on to wind-blasted, wave-tumbled life rafts were hauled over the side with no more than a second to lose before being sucked into the propellers. Hour after hour into the night, lone survivors bobbed in the turmoil, waiting for salvation — and almost every one of them received it, thanks to the modest unsung heroes working the rugged tugboats. Ultimately, All the Men in the Sea is their story on a night of unparalleled bravery and determination.

Simon & Schuster, Free Press 2002, Pocket Books 2003
Film rights for All the Men in the Sea were purchased by Twentieth Century Fox in 2005