Thursday, October 19, 2006

Search, Day Two...

The master of the OCEAN CHALLENGER never woke up yesterday thinking it might be the last. No one sane does.

We searched a second day, weaving through and around the rapidly dissapating debris field. The seas are still big, often to 20-feet or so, but more muddled and confused as the strong winds have died to a more moderate 20 to 25 knots. The Cold Bay helo was out with us earlier, as was another C130 from Kodiak. They relocate the fish tote, the wood pieces, the fish floats, the data marker buoy with it's radio homing transmitter dropped from the aircraft, the lifering thrown from the OVERSEAS JOYCE. We are still looking for the master, or anything else that will help to explain why this vessel capsized yesterday, when it never capsized in previous years of worse weather.

About 7-ish tonight we finished our last creeping line search, with negative results. District Seventeen released us, and we made one final track thru the search area as we head toward the Bering Sea.

I am onboard to help with crabber boardings, and this case set us back about two days in our law-enforcement mission, but SAR is what we do, and this was a good reminder of why I love this organization as much as I do. We're seasick, getting slapped silly by a gale in the Gulf of Alaska, no one having fun, and we drop everything to focus on the matter at hand... our fellow mariners, slapped by the same gale, and definitely not having any fun. Less important than our feeling of having done the best job we could, is the tragedy borne by the families of the three men who did not survive.

It would appear, being the stickler for detail and fact, that I may have erred initially in some parts of this. I just read the online article in the Anchorage paper (at, based on press releases out of Juneau, and it seems the survivor may have been the only one of the four wearing his suit. Also, it is not the skipper we were looking for, but one of the deckhands. In the thick of the fight, as the historian Clausewitz would call the "fog of war," we don't always get the picture correctly as it unfolds around us. I have no doubt that in the post-mortem that I know will follow this tragedy, the facts will out. What's important to the men and women on the MUNRO tonight is that we did what we could in an awful, cold and uncaring environment.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.



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