The Last Voyage Of The Bounty

Michael Kruse: In the dark, in the wet, whirling roar of Hurricane Sandy, on a ship tipping so badly the deck felt like a steep, slick roof, the desperate, damaged sailor searched for a spot from which to jump. Close to the stern, he gripped the helm, now all but touching the water’s high black churn. He let go and paddled and kicked in the buoyant but clumsy blood-orange suit he had wiggled into not long before. The ship spat up a heavy wooden grating, and it landed on his head. Crack. His adrenaline surged. He thrashed, straining to get away from the heaving ship, her three masts of tree trunk heft rearing up and slamming down like lethal mallets, her thinner, sharper spars piercing the surface like darts, the ropes of the rigging like tentacles, grabbing, yanking. Pfffffft. The tip of a spar sliced down, catching the sailor, pushing him below. He gasped, choking on water, struggling back to where there was air.

His focus narrowed.

Next breath.

Breathe.

14 thoughts on “The Last Voyage Of The Bounty

    • Just the opposite. Forever we’ve known that visuals (photography, graphics, design) help tell a good story. I’m glad more papers are starting to apply those principles online.

    • A confession: I have not read Snow Fall, any of the new SI Longform stuff or even Bounty because you can’t print them out. I don’t have a good explanation, other than Computer = Work. These are stories I want to read by writers I greatly admire. I hope the media-rich presentation finds these stories a much broader audience. To that end, I have tweeted positive things about these stories on faith. And I hope they are all eventually anthologized in a book, which I will buy and read with great delight.

      • I second that.

        I could be wildly wrong here, but I think the rich-media presentation can work well — just that it requires a much, much different type of writing than what most of us here are either used to or aspire to produce.

        Not that it can’t be riveting or artful, but I wonder if certain turns of phrase or descriptive passages become redundant alongside photos and videos and splashy backgrounds.

        That said, I think it’s great we’re trying new things and innovating. I also might be the oldest soul of a 28-year-old in the world. But, man, when something’s written as well as Kruse’s prose or Snowfall or what have you, the bells and whistles for me — for now, anyway — can get in the way

  1. I actually printed all three installments of the “The Last Voyage of the Bounty,” because I, too, like to hold stories in my hand and I can’t get the Tampa Bay Times in Portland, Maine. The three stories are, collectively, about 60 pages, but that seems worth it. (I haven’t read the last installment, but the first two have been remarkable)
    But I have not read “Snow Fall” for the same reason Brick states. Too hard to print. Had this problem with “The Jockey,” by Barry Bearak and “The Prophets of Oak Ridge,” by Dan Zak. I did end up reading both online but would have rather printed them out.
    I have a 2×3-foot tote of printed stories at home. Will need to start a new one soon. My wife thinks I’m nuts, but there it is. I know I can find “The Falling Man,” and “Angels and Demons,” and “Eating Jack Hooker’s Cow,” when I need to.
    -Eric Russell

  2. Online presentation is a great way to let folks know a story is a bit more important than others. I get that. I also understand outlets aren’t necessarily looking to reach the minority of us who come to narrative writing sans whiz bang design. But I believe the option of having a physical copy of all stories is necessary — vital even — for all kinds of writing. I think that’s so because I love annotating, taking notes. I retain and experience stories better that way.

    However, I wrote this comment from my smart phone. I read a sizable portion of the media I consume on this thing or my laptop. I’m a millennial. Sitting in front of a computer has never meant work to me. It’s just a part of life.

  3. I certainly wouldn’t mind a button that would strip stories like these of everything but the words, readable black on immaculate white, just the option. In the meantime, though, I think I’ll send Brick a Google Doc via the USPS.

  4. I keep a massive folder of my favorite stories. Most of these I’ve printed out after reading online and deciding I need a physical copy. Some I’ve torn out of magazines. But the purpose is the same: being able to reread, consult and share what I believe to be the best journalism I’ve encountered in the last decade. (I started the collection in my early teens; I’m 21 now.)

    My decided preference for print copies of stories means some of this interactive/Snowfall-esque presentation gets lost in translation. Personal preferences aside, I do believe in the new wave: I’m part of a small group of journalists at UNC launching a digital magazine, focusing on quality longform pieces. It’ll be available for tablets starting Nov. 12. It is certainly an experiment, but it’s one we believe in.

  5. I don’t want to start a run on Kruse’s generosity here, but I wanted to read this in its printed form—not printed off my computer, but the way the Times printed it. I appreciate the larger digital presentations, and I think it’s important that we do them and it’s probably how most stories will be presented in the future. But count me among those who will take paper as long as I can get it. I see a long magazine story online that I want to read and invariably I’ll go out and buy it. I know I’m probably in a very small percentage there.

  6. I don’t know what’s happened to me, but I’ve gone from being a diehard read-it-only-after-I-print-it-out guy to reading virtually everything on my computer, tablet, or phone. Somewhere along the line I just quit hating it. That said, if I read something that I really like, I’ll usually go find a physical copy of it somewhere. With stuff like Snowfall, I’ve even scrolled through taking screenshots so I can print a clean version that still sorta looks like what I saw on the computer.

    I do the same thing with books, too—I usually order books off Amazon for my Kindle, read them, and then if I really liked them, I’ll order a physical copy for re-reading.

    And Kruse, this was awesome. Incredible work.

  7. I’m with Chris on the issue of print. I like the things you can do with digital storytelling. I’ll probably keep experimenting with it. But when I really want to read something I want to hold the whole thing in my hand and see the ink. Force of habit I guess.

    Claire, I’ve been doing the same thing you’re doing with great stories for 27 years. I used to write letters to other reporters asking for copies of their best work. First one I ever got was John Camp’s Pulitzer-winning series on a farm family for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Reading and rereading these stories became my version of journalism school (I never did go to j-school). Anyway, I think it’s a good way to learn and to improve your own work.

  8. I’m with Brick. This was a beautifully written, reported, and presented series.

    I also read it on newsprint, and I’m glad I did.

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