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Outpouring of affection for 'Deadliest Catch' Captain Phil Harris

Over five seasons, Captain Phil Harris and his Cornelia Marie became fan favorites on the Discovery Channel's reality show 'Deadliest Catch.'

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Phil Harris, fisherman in charge of the Cornelia Marie on the popular Discovery Channel show 'Deadliest Catch,' passed away on Feb. 9. Captain Harris is shown here with his sons Josh and Jake.

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Leaning back in his captain’s chair, sometimes worried, sometimes ebullient, often just plain grouchy, Captain Phil Harris and his gravelly croak turned the deck of the 128-foot F/V Cornelia Marie into floating theater.

For fans of the Discovery Channel show “Deadliest Catch,” the drama-documentary that films in high-def the highs and lows of the Alaska king crab fleet, Captain Harris gave a glimpse into an American archetype: Independent, proud, and willing to stare danger in the face, often with a rascally wink.

But it was ultimately Harris’s pride in his two sons, Josh and Jake, and his concerns about their continuing the family fishing tradition, that made the Cornelia Marie crew one of the most beloved among the half-dozen boats regularly featured on the reality show.

Crab fishing is really a ruse for the show, as the monotony of setting and pulling huge steel traps becomes a backdrop for how families – both real and surrogate – pull together and clash (sometimes with fists) amidst nature’s roil and the constant uncertainty of the fishing industry.

Yes, the show delivered action on the high seas, but “what we got instead was an insightful human drama about the people who toil on the ends of the earth and the struggles they go through to keep a family – surrogate or otherwise – together,” writes Gawker’s Brian Moylan.

Based out of Seattle, Harris was one of only a few captains to be featured in all five seasons of the show.

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