For Edgar Hansen, crab fishing is something he was born to do.
“I was born in Seattle and raised on a fishing boat,” he says.
One of the crab fishermen on the Discovery Channel’s hit docudrama “Deadliest Catch,” Edgar works as the deck boss on the ship his brother Sig captains, the Northwestern. But before his time working with his brothers – Norman works on the ship as well – he had to work his way up.
“My father was a fourth generation fisherman, migrated here from Norway, saved up all his money and ended up buying a boat,” Edgar says. “That boat sank, and the same thing that happened to his boat happened to us in the last season.”
But his father got another boat, the Northwestern, and that’s where Edgar started working at age 17.
“You start out as a greenhorn and you work your way up the ladder. Back then, in those days, you had to wait for someone to die or quit to work your way up the ladder,” he says.
Edgar moved up from greenhorn to cook for many years, which had a bit of a learning curve, but he says it’s all good experience. “On a boat, it’s good to have everybody learn to cook, clean and everything.”
As deck boss, he finds himself boosting crew morale and keeping everyone on task. “Deck boss is an informal title given to the main man on deck, he’s the go to guy,” he says. “As strange as it may sound, the deck is run kind of like a ballet, it’s an orchestra. Everybody has to be in the right place at the right time doing what they’re supposed to be doing. If one guy falls behind, the whole operation falls apart.”
And getting used to the cameras and extra crew on the boat is something Edgar says he still isn’t used to. “I still get nervous. It takes about a week or two when they get on board before it’s like, ‘Okay, we’re filming again.’ It’s tough,” he says. There have been moments where the cameramen and film crew found themselves in severe danger. Edgar once managed to save a cameraman on the bow of the ship from being dragged under by the anchor and a misplaced foot.
“There’ve been times where we had to grab a couple guys and step them back and say ‘Look, this is a danger zone, you don’t want to be there by yourself,’” Edgar says. That’s not even the most danger their ship has been in, either. One time, racing back to town with a misbalanced boat, three massive “freight train” waves knocked the boat to 90 degrees on its side.
“You can’t walk around scared,” he says. “If you walk around scared, you don’t really have the mental capacity to do what you’re doing. My motto is it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.”
When Edgar isn’t on the boat fishing for his favorite crab – “Alaskan red king crab. Not only do they taste good, but you can literally see money when you get these crabs.” – he finds himself spending time at home with his wife and three kids, but not with idle hands.
“I can’t sit still. I do a lot of renovations, take side jobs when I’m home,” he says. “But we’re still talking about the boat while we’re home, it doesn’t end just because you step off the boat. It’s a never ending deal.”
Being on the show has brought him a bit of a celebrity status, too, which he and his brothers have used to do some good, such as helping charities like the Ronald McDonald House. “When you’re able to walk into a room with a bunch of sick kids and all these kid’s eyes just light up like Santa Claus just walked into the room, it’s very humbling knowing these kids are watching your show, getting strength from what you do.”
But for Edgar, he tips his hat to those in the trucking industry.
“Truckers are just like us. They’re crab fishermen on wheels,” he says. “My respect goes out to these guys for doing what they do.”