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Facts Only Huge Fans Know About Deadliest Catch Captain Sig Hansen

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With the name, face, and even the voice that has become synonymous with "Deadliest Catch," Captain Sig Hansen's larger-than-life personality has made him a full blown celebrity. Having been involved with the series since the first episode aired on April 12, 2005, Sig also dove right into the promotional side of the show, never shying away from "Deadliest Catch" adjacent shows like "After the Catch" and "The Bait," and even appearances on "Today" with Hoda Kotb, and "Live with Kelly & Michael."

Born Sigurd Jonny Hansen on April 28, 1966, in Seattle, Washington, Sig was destined for fishing. For this fourth generation fisherman, whose life on deck began at 14 years old in 1979, terms like "reality TV" and "docuseries" weren't even part of the vocabulary, and "celebrity" was so far from the realm of possibilities for a crab fisherman.

After succeeding his father as the Northwestern's captain at only 24, Sig led younger brothers Norman and Edgar to the top of the Alaskan crabbing fleet — a dream for his Norwegian immigrant father, Sverre Hansen. Now the patriarch of the Hansen family, Sig has (in his own hard-nosed way) nurtured young skippers like Jake Anderson, Sean Dwyer, and the fifth generation of Hansen crabbers, daughter Mandy Hansen. Mandy named her daughter Sailor, so we could very well see a sixth generation soon enough. "Deadliest Catch" films so much of Sig's life that he's had a heart attack, mourned the loss of friends, and witnessed deckhand Clark Pederson propose to daughter Mandy. As for what you might be missing, here are some facts only huge fans know about "Deadliest Catch" captain Sig Hansen.

He is part of a tradition that helped shape the Alaskan crabbing industry

Many captains and crew members are part of their family's crab fishing lineage. The Cornelia Marie's Captain Phil Harris began fishing with his father at only 8 years old, and hired sons Josh & Jake as deckhands. Josh Harris eventually took over as captain after Phil's untimely passing. Brothers Johnathan, Andy, and Neal Hillstrand were handed down the Time Bandit from their father (who actually designed and built the ship), and have had Johnathan's son Scott and Neal's sons Axl and Phillip work as deckhands.

What separates the Hansen family from the rest is that Sig's father and grandfather actually pioneered Opilio crab (snow crab) fishing in Alaska. By prospecting for Opilio in uncharted Bering Sea waters, they gave every other boat in the fleet a whole new season of fishing. Because of this, fans now see that each "Deadliest Catch” season is broken up into a king crab fishing season, the infrequent Bairdi crab season, and the deadliest of them all... The Opilio crab season. After immigrating to America from Karmoy, Norway in 1958, Sverre Hansen and his father Sigurd (whom Sig is named after) just wanted to keep their boat fishing, and have since made Sig (and the rest of the fleet) millions of dollars each Opilio season.

Captain Sig initially didn't want to be on Deadliest Catch

Captain Sig Hansen's life is so intertwined with "Deadliest Catch" that it's impossible to imagine the show without him. He is featured in 241 episodes, countless one-off specials, and is even credited as a consultant on 122 episodes. Because of his connection with the fans, and his willingness to be on camera, the show has often filmed him and his family in their Seattle, Washington home — far from any actual crab fishing. His spinoff series, "Deadliest Catch: The Viking Returns" follows the crabbing expeditions of Sig and his co-captain daughter Mandy in Norway, and the first episode aired on September 13, 2022.

Sig and the Discovery Channel's life-long journey almost never was. It's easy to look back and see Sig's "no-brainer" choice to allow a camera crew on his boat, but back in 2005, Sig just wanted to catch some crab and get home in one piece. In an interview with Gamer Live, Sig said, "I think my first reaction when they asked us to film was ... I thought they were nuts. And I think every captain will tell you the same thing. And it was a negative reaction. Then after a while, we started thinking about it. Like, this could be good for our industry. We figured we'll leave something behind for the next generation. That's kinda why I did it." Good choice, Sig!

He survived two heart attacks

In 2016, "Deadliest Catch" cameras were rolling during Sig's first heart attack. Playing off his chest and left arm pains as "muscle cramps," he told the producer, "We're doing your interview, I'm not dying, so let that go." He ended up being airlifted to a cardiologist, and it wasn't until the following episode (aptly titled "The Widowmaker: Part 2") that we saw Sig in the hospital, hearing that it was a stress-induced heart attack commonly referred to as "the widowmaker." The doctor went on to explain, "We want to prevent another one, because a second hit, obviously, then you get worse and worse heart failure."

Two years later, in October of 2018, Sig failed to heed the doctor's warnings and had another massive heart attack. Cameras were not rolling on this one, but they caught him explaining the incident to his Northwestern crew (including daughter Mandy) in the premiere episode of Season 15. Their reactions are real-time and we can see the genuine look of concern for Sig. Daughter Mandy told Yahoo!, "The first heart attack should have been an eye-opener. I'm thankful that I'm here, I get to spend some extra time with him." Sig was permitted by doctors to return to the boat because, as he explained to his crew, "I had to beg for it. I basically had to B.S my way through it."

He has an estranged daughter who accused him of sexual abuse

Because "Deadliest Catch" is a docuseries that brings us into the lives of real people, it's naturally going to involve personal issues that have nothing to do with crab fishing. The show has covered numerous cases of drug abuse, and violence between crew members, but over the years, stories of scandal, bank robbery, and even murder have surfaced. In 2016, an accusation of sexual abuse against Sig Hansen was one of these scandalous pieces of news that, luckily for Hansen, Discovery Channel has not covered on the show itself.

The initial accusation that Sig Hansen abused then 2-year-old daughter Melissa Eckstrom came in 1990, while Hansen and then wife, Lisa Eckstrom, were in the middle of a contentious divorce and custody battle over Melissa. The Seattle Times reported the very serious and detailed accusations against Hansen, and Hansen's claim that Eckstrom, "Poisoned my relationship with our daughter through years of vile lies." Prosecutors declined to file Lisa Eckstrom's 1990 charges because the lack of evidence would fail to prove these accusations "beyond a reasonable doubt."

SeattlePI reported that a trial in 1992 ruled that Hansen did not commit the abuse. Melissa brought a civil suit against Hansen in 2016, but after claiming that her mother Lisa has attempted to extort him several times since the divorce, Hansen told The Seattle Times, "This is nothing more than an old-fashioned shakedown ... It's blackmail."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

He lost good friend Jeff Hathaway when the Destination capsized

"Deadliest Catch" depicts the very competitive nature of crab fishing, but over the years, captains and crew have worked with and even developed lifelong friendships with many other fishermen of the fleet. TVshowsace.com reported that "Although the Destination was not part of the Discovery show, the captain and crew were friends with the captains of the reality show. According to Distractify, Sig Hansen and other veteran captains even looked up to Destination captain Jeff Hathaway, with the report stating that Hathaway once gave Hansen real-time instructions on a particularly difficult maneuver.

Fans of "Deadliest Catch" heard about Hansen's friendship with Hathaway as they saw him hear the tragic news in Season 15, Episode 13. In a heart-wrenching moment caught on camera, a visibly shocked Hansen asks, "Are you talking about Jeff Destination? My ... My buddy? What?" before hearing the grim details about the Destination's last known position. A tearful Hansen then tells the producer, "I know you want me to probably say something, but I ... Maybe just give me a little bit and I'll tell you what I think, okay?"

Hathaway was one of the six men who were never recovered by the Coast Guard. Anchorage Alaska Daily News noted that, even though Hathaway was "one of the most savvy, experienced skippers of his generation," he left St. George Island in hazardous conditions, and The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the ice build up on their stack of pots ultimately made the vessel too top-heavy. Reminded that this could happen to even the most experienced captains, Sig told Yahoo, "You know, when I think about the Destination ... It makes you think — if it could happen to them, can it happen to me?"

He is a New York Times best-selling author

On a much lighter note ... In an effort to capitalize on the success of "Deadliest Catch," Hansen thought fans would want to delve deeper into the Hansen family's history of crab fishing with his novel, "North By Northwestern: A Seafaring Family on Deadly Alaskan Waters." According to Heavy.com, Hansen was "not much of a reader" and never envisioned writing a book, but after he was introduced to writer Mark Sundeen, the two partnered up and began telling the Hansen family's story. Hansen's initial instinct was right — fans flocked, and in March 2010, the novel became a New York Times Bestseller.

Macmillan Publishers describes the novel as "part memoir and part adventure tale," and an Outside Magazine review called it "A chronicle that reads like a collection of your crazy buddy's bar stories about his crazier old man." Although Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand's book, "Time Bandit: Two Brothers, the Bering Sea, and One of the World's Deadliest Jobs" was published two years prior to Hansen's, the success of Hansen's immediately prompted other "Deadliest Catch" captains to get writing. Books by Captains Jake Anderson, Josh Harris, and Scott Campbell Jr. were all published in April, 2014.

Sig briefly left Deadliest Catch in protest

During Season 6 of "Deadliest Catch," the Discovery Channel offered Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand of the Time Bandit their own spinoff special, "Hillstranded." The brothers began shooting, and all was well until they stumbled at the finish line. Failing to report to the studio for narration voiceovers had them in breach of contract, and Discovery sued them for $3 million. The Hillstrand brothers quit "Deadliest Catch" in retaliation, and out of solidarity, Sig Hansen quit too.

A statement from the three captains read, "We have been through a lot over the past year, and unfortunately given the current situation with Discovery, we are unable to continue participating in 'Deadliest Catch.' It has been a fantastic ride, and we wish the best to all of the amazing and supportive 'Catch' fans we have met over the years." It's easier to see why Johnathan and Andy decided to quit, but Sig's decision felt abrupt and unexpected. Hansen stated, "I want people to know the captains stand together, and me and my brothers support them 100 percent."

Fortunately for all parties involved, the legal battle was resolved one week before the filming of Season 7. The exact settlement was not disclosed, but Discovery and the Hillstrands were happy with the outcome. They finished work on the special in question, "Alaskan Monster Hunt: Hillstranded," and the three captains told the Hollywood Reporter, "We're happy we worked everything out with Discovery. A deal's a deal. We're heading up to Dutch Harbor to start filming the new season of 'Deadliest Catch' and hopefully it will be the best one yet."

If he wasn't a crabber, he'd want to be a NASCAR driver

As a fourth generation crabber who's been on a crab boat since he was 14 years old, Hansen probably didn't even have time to think about what he wanted to be when he grew up. In an interview with Discovery UK, he was asked, "If you weren't a fisherman, what would you do?" He excitedly responded, "Well, so let's face it. I mean, if I couldn't be fishing right now, and I had a choice, I think being a NASCAR driver would be pretty cool. Just because ... Look at it. You got excitement, risk, rewardb... Kinda like fishing." He must have meant it, because he repeated that answer in an interview with Yahoo! Entertainment.

Hansen's comparison of the high-risk, high-reward lifestyle between fishing and NASCAR driving demonstrates the fleet-wide sentiment fans have heard countless times. We see the drastic highs and lows of crab fishing in one short interview with Fox Business. Captain Jake Anderson described the devastating loss of "one of his heroes" in the disappearance of the Destination, and not even two minutes later, he claimed that he once "grossed $2.5 million in 11 days." So even though Hansen was born into crabbing, his thrill-seeking personality definitely fits the mold, or he may have opted for another career at some point in his 40-plus years on a crab boat.

Hansen was inducted into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame

Per their website, the Norsk Hostfest is "a not-for-profit organization that raises funds to preserve and share Scandinavian culture, heritage and educational programs." North America's largest Scandinavian festival, this annual festival is held in Minot, North Dakota, and includes annual inductions into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame. Established in 1984, the Hall of Fame honors North Americans of Scandinavian descent who have "achieved greatness in their fields of endeavor and/or whose efforts have contributed significantly to the betterment of mankind." Enter Captain Sig Hansen.

Seattle based publication "The Norwegian American" reported that, alongside musician and songwriter Bobby Vee and bandleader Doc Severinsen, Hansen was inducted into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame in 2014. Vee had 38 songs on the Billboard Hot 100, including "Take Good Care of My Baby," which hit number one in 1961. Doc Severinsen is a Grammy Award-winning musician who was the leader of the "Tonight Show" band for 30 years. At the time of induction, Sig Hansen had been a staple of "Deadliest Catch" for nine years. A first generation American, Hansen's father Sverre Hansen was born in Karmoy, Norway, and immigrated to Seattle, Washington. It didn't hurt that Sig's first language is Norwegian.

Sig initially hated the idea of his daughter Mandy fishing

Mandy Hansen is the younger of Sig and his wife June's two adopted daughters. In 2009, fans of the show first met Mandy when she appeared as a guest star of an "After the Catch" segment at just 13 years old. In an interview with Discovery UK, when asked, "Will you train your children to be king crab fisherwomen?" Hansen responded, "As far as my children fishing ... I'm not gonna let them fish, are you crazy? Never! Go to school! Don't be stupid, and don't fish!" Mandy Hansen must have been pretty persuasive, since she was tendering salmon on the Northwestern at only 14 years old — the same age as Sig during his first Northwestern season in 1979.

Her work ethic and attention to detail led to other job offers, and that's when Sig's tune began to change. He told Yahoo! Entertainment, "She's had job offers from other salmon boats. And then she said that she was going to try crabbing, of course. And I said, "Over my dead body — or it's going to be on my boat." Going deeper down the rabbit hole, as reported by CBS, Mandy became an official Northwestern deckhand — the first female deckhand in the boat's history — at 18 years old.

Now, under Sig's mentorship, she is being groomed for the captaincy and even ownership of the boat. In 2019, he told Entertainment Weekly, "Oh, she's fine. She and her husband can take it and run. I don't care. They are young, they got this, For me, I'm done. I got a foot out the door. My mentality is different from what it was 20 years ago."

An ankle injury saved Sig's life

You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would ever say, "Man I'm glad I sprained my ankle." Well, Sig Hansen can say just that. Years before his tenure on "Deadliest Catch," Sig was still trying to find work on other boats. In the "Deadliest" Catch" segment "Captain Stories," Hansen tells Discovery Channel that while the rest of his crew was flying home for the holidays, he decided to keep working, and found a job as a cook on another boat.

The plan was to fish for deep water brown crab, but as he jumped over the rail to board the boat, he sprained his ankle. He assured the captain that he'd be fine, but the captain (after noticing the severe swelling) told Sig to go home. Hansen said, "I ended up having to fly home. That boat went out fishing and... It disappeared. They never saw it again. Basically, a sprained ankle saved my life."

Hansen's story makes no mention of the boat in question. It has been suggested but not confirmed that a passage in his novel "North by Northwestern: A Seafaring Family on Deadly Alaskan Waters" claims that the boat in question was the Seattle-based crab boat the Pacesetter. In 1996, Captain Matt Pope and his six crew members were taken by a Bering Sea storm, and lost at sea. Hansen reflects, "I'm lucky to be here. And I feel grateful, and I feel blessed. Every day."