Sig Hansen may have started out as a humble crab fisherman from a long line of the like, but when Discovery Channel arrived on the scene of Alaskan crab fishing, Hansen shot to the height of fame. A constant on the Discovery show “Deadliest Catch” since its inception, Hansen has been an object of much discussion and speculation. The Norwegian captain of the FV Northwestern has struggled with heart issues in recent years, suffering two heart attacks. He works closely with his brother, Edgar Hansen, which raised even more dissent when both brothers faced separate allegations of sexual assault. In the case of Sig Hansen, these allegations arose from his estranged daughter, and caused an enormous stir in the media.
Early Life and Family
Sigurd Jonny ‘Sig’ Hansen was born on 28 April 1966, in Seattle, Washington State USA, to Sverre and Snefryd Hansen. Sig was the first of three boys, his younger brothers Norman and Edgar following in short order. Sig comes from a long line of crab fisherman which dates back at least four generations. Hansen was eager to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, who had pioneered new fishing techniques that allowed them to extend the fishing season, and so create a steadier source of income. By the age of 14, Hansen was already helping on the family fishing boat, often missing school to do so.
Sig Hansen attended school despite knowing from a young age that the career he wished to follow did not lie in the academic field. He matriculated from Shorewood High School, and didn’t attend any institution of tertiary education. Hansen and his brothers are bilingual, speaking fluent Norwegian as spoken in their childhood home. Sig learned all his fishing skills from his father and the crew of the boats he worked on before he obtained his own fishing vessel.
Ascent to Captain
Like most crew on fishing vessels, Hansen had to start on the lowest rung and work his way up to a position of power. Sig began as a deckhand on one of his father’s boats after he matriculated, spending months at sea at a time.
He would also strike out to Norway in the summer months, to fish for mackerel and cod. His ability and close family ties saw him ascend to the position of relief skipper at the age of 22 in 1988; he would work short shifts and fill in for various skippers in his father’s fleet. By the age of 24, Sig had assumed full control of the Northwestern. The boat had earned an impressive reputation, not only for its success in the fishing industry, but for the incredibly low injury rates and the scarcity of deaths – something not to be taken for granted on the tumultuous and freezing waters of the Bering Sea.
Although there are multiple Alaskan based Discovery shows, “Deadliest Catch” is perhaps the most popular of the entire set. The show premiered on 12 April 2005, and set records within the docuseries industry.
The show has earned multiple awards, and the cast is now recognized in mainstream media. Although the featured vessels thrived in the spotlight, the show is reported to have had a highly detrimental impact on the crab fishing industry, as other vessels and fleets struggling to compete. The show takes its name from the hazardous nature of life at sea and on the boat. Sig is a Captain on the show, but also acts as a confidant and mentoring figure to members of the crew, and even the captains of other boats, such as Jake Anderson.
Sig Hansen’s fame at sea led to him being approached by the producers of “Cars 2” (2011) to play a cameo voice role. He agreed, and voiced Crabby the boat; a highly appropriate role given his background.
On 30 March 2010, Sig Hansen and Mark Sundeen released the book they had co-authored, “North by Northwest: A Seafaring Family on Dangerous Alaskan Waters”. The book explores the struggle of Sig Hansen’s family from immigrants to crab fishing moguls. The book was well-received by the public, rocketing to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists.
Sig divorced from his first wife in 1992, after a messy and tension-ridden process, as the couple was engaged in a vicious battle over the custody of their only daughter, Melissa Eckstrom. The divorce escalated to the extent that allegations were thrown that Sig had sexually abused his daughter, but the case did not go to court for many years.
Hansen later married June and adopted her two daughters – Mandy and Nina. Mandy took to Hansen’s way of life and started assisting him on the Northwestern during the filming of “Deadliest Catch”, and eventually took over the boat.
Sig Hansen experienced his first heart attack in 2016, while on the Northwestern during the filming of “Deadliest Catch”, later admitting that the experience was extremely traumatic and terrifying. The show did not reveal that the heart attack had happened for almost three years, which sparked outrage from the fanbase.
In October 2018, Sig was in the car with his wife June when he experienced his second heart attack.
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— Sig Hansen (@northwesternsig) February 3, 2018
Hansen had been taking anti-biotics for a sinus infection, and unbeknownst to him had an allergic reaction to the medication. Realizing that something was wrong, he continued driving at 100 miles per hour to reach the emergency room. Later, it was revealed that he had barely 10 minutes left before death when the nurse administered the EpiPen injection that would save his life.
These health issues left Hansen extremely wary, aware of his mortality, even affecting the way he viewed his life at sea. Sig Hansen explains that “I don’t like it anymore. I don’t even remember this king crab season. I’m still trying to get over this last winter. I can’t get it out of my mind. It’s scary. It’s been really hard. I don’t know how much more I’ve got left in me.”
In a highly publicized and convoluted court case, Sig Hansen’s estranged daughter made allegations that her father has sexually abused her when she was no more than two years old. She claims that because of this treatment, her life has been plagued with depression, suicidal thoughts, and eating disorders. The case was based on Mellissa’s alleged memories of the abuse, medical records, and therapist evaluations. Sig denies all these claims and says that his daughter has been brainwashed by that her mother to believe that these things occurred. He believes that his ex-wife used this tactic to obtain custody of Melissa, and that the two are now using this as a form of blackmail.
While Sig was never convicted of this, the original investigation in 1990 chose not to investigate the case, with the added caveat that they did believe Sig to be guilty, but didn’t think they could prove it. However, Hansen has now been acquitted, and all allegations laid to rest.
Sig Hansen has pale brown, greying hair that he wears longer, but remains clean-shaven. He is 5ft 8ins (1.72m) tall and weighs 172lbs (78kgs). He is broad-shouldered and well built from his years at sea.
Net Worth and Salary
Sig Hansen has made a sizeable sum from both the crab fishing industry and “Deadliest Catch”; Discovery Channel docuseries cast members are reportedly paid significant amounts for their appearances on the show. As of 2020, Sig Hansen has accrued a net worth of over $3 million.