Articles Posted in Alaska

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Screenshot-321The massive earthquake that rocked Anchorage, Alaska, on Friday, November 30th caused widespread damage to roads, buildings, schools, and homes. Initially, a tsunami warning was issued after the quake, but it was revised and canceled after authorities assessed that there would be no giant wave.

The earth began shaking at approximately 8:29 a.m. about eight miles outside of Anchorage. The jolting quake lasted for about one minute and registered 7.0. Many residents reported that they heard the rumbling sound of the quake just before the shaking began. And everyone agreed, it could have been so much worse.

The few fires that started were extinguished quickly, no large buildings collapsed, and no deaths have been reported resulting from the quake. It is widely believed that updated building code requirements and retrofitting efforts created a safer environment for everyone. At a press conference, Governor Bill Walker stated, “Building codes mean something.”

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ColdBayMapWhen fishermen or crewmembers working in Alaska are injured or fall ill, the U.S. Coast Guard is often called upon to medevac. But what if a vessel is far from assistance? In these situations, long-range medevacs are necessary. Follow the map to see the distances covered and the heroic effort that took place on Sunday, November 18th.

Watchstanders at U.S. Coast Guard 17th District command center received a call that a 63-year-old crewmember working aboard the F/V BLUE ATTU was exhibiting symptoms associated with a stroke. The Coast Guard flight surgeon recommended a medevac, and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter located at Cold Bay, Alaska set out toward the vessel location approximately 100 miles north of St. Paul. Watchstanders also directed an HC-130 Hercules aircrew from Kodiak to travel to St. Paul, and a second MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew was sent from Kodiak to Cold Bay to be on stand-by.

After the Jayhawk helicopter reached St. Paul, refueling took place and the Jayhawk crew embarked a U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer who was brought to St. Paul by the HC-130 Hercules. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy was also in the vicinity of the medevac, and after the Jayhawk aircrew took off from St. Paul, they re-fueled on board the Healy again before transiting to the Blue Attu to conduct the medevac. The crew was forced to abort the medevac due to unfavorable conditions. However, the standby Jayhawk crew was able to successfully conduct the hoist and transport the crewmember back to St. Paul. He was then transported to Anchorage, Alaska for further care. His condition was reported as stable at the time of the transfer.

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The-Bering-Sea-300x142A 56-year-old fisherman is missing after falling overboard on Friday, October 26th. The F/V JUDA LEE was approximately 7 miles off the coast of Nome, Alaska when the incident occurred.

Anthony Shelp, the vessel owner, was reportedly fishing with family members when he fell into the water. Crewmembers tried to pull him back aboard the vessel, but their efforts were unsuccessful. Alaska State Troopers were alerted, and the U.S. Coast Guard was called for assistance at approximately 10:45 a.m.

An Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew was launched out of Kotzebue to search for Mr. Shelp. An urgent marine broadcast was also issued to alert all mariners in the area.

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Pink-SalmonSalmon season is always an anxious time for fisherman, as everyone waits to see how accurate catch predictions will be. But this year has proven to be quite disappointing as Alaska’s statewide salmon catch is expected to fall 31 percent below pre-season predictions. All species of salmon catches are down except for sockeye.

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the total shortfall can be blamed on the poor returns of one specific species, pink salmon, to the Gulf of Alaska. Initial forecasting predicted a pink salmon catch of approximately 70 million, but current numbers are at 38 million. This small salmon species, also known as “Humpback Salmon” for the distinctive large hump that males develop on their backs during spawning season, usually weigh just 2 to 6 pounds as adults. Since the fish are flakey and low in oil content, they are generally processed and sold as value-added products such as salmon patties or frozen marinated steaks. Most pink salmon is canned, which yields a final product with a long shelf life that can be easily transported.

It was expected that the pink salmon run would be low this year, as the fish returning are the offspring of those that spawned in 2016, a devastatingly low year for pink salmon. Alaska issued a federal disaster declaration in several regions due to the low 2016 harvest and was subsequently issued $56 million in aid. However, these 2018 yields are far lower than anyone predicted.

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Seafood-300x256Commercial fishing is full of variables and risk; extreme weather, aging fleets, dwindling stocks, fish migration, and climate change to name just a few. However, economic issues have a way of overshadowing everything when they arise. This summer, commercial fishermen are worried that they may have been dealt a serious blow in the form of retaliatory tariffs. To punish the U.S. for its evolving trade policies, China has imposed a 25 percent tariff on Pacific Northwest seafood. According to many commercial fishermen and politicians, this could be a devastating blow to the fragile seafood industry.

How did we get here? Originally, seafood was not on the list of exports that would be targeted with tariffs. However, in response to the Trump administration’s tariffs on Chinese goods, the Chinese government has reacted by issuing a 25 percent tariff on all Pacific Northwest seafood. This could be particularly damaging for Alaska, as China purchases an estimated $1 billion a year in Alaskan seafood, making seafood the state’s largest export.

President Trump has placed $34 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods and plans to implement an additional $16 billion on Thursday, August 23rd if no new agreement is reached. China has guaranteed that they will respond with retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products.

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Medevac-Cordova-AK-e1533669424484-300x226A crewmember aboard the F/V DEVOTION sustained a head injury on Saturday, August 4th approximately 34 miles southwest of Cordova, Alaska.  It was reported that following the injury,  the 51-year-old fell and required immediate medical attention.

Watchstanders received a relay call from the charter vessel Dan Ryan requesting assistance in the form of a medevac. After a consultation with the Coast Guard duty flight surgeon, it was confirmed that the crewmember did indeed need immediate medical attention. A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew responded to the call and delivered the crewmember to awaiting medical personnel.

“When we arrived to the scene, the fishing vessel was tied up to an offshore supply vessel, which made for a unique hoist,” said Lt. Joe Chevalier, a Jayhawk pilot during the medevac. “Through the coordination of the duty flight surgeon, Sector Anchorage Watchstanders and the Devotion crew, we were able to get the man to higher level care quickly.”

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Yok-FenderWhen the F/V KRISTI lost power on July 14th shortly after midnight, no one could have imagined the disaster that was about to take place as the vessel drifted near Clark’s Point, a Bristol Bay village just outside of Dillingham. As the tide came in, it brought the vessel along toward shore, traveling at approximately 5 knots or 500 feet per minute.

Owner and skipper Jan Medhaug along with deckhand Kyle Brajakowski were working to restore engine power to the 32-foot salmon gillnetter while Kayla Breeden, Jan’s wife, placed a buoy at the stern. Breeden reported that she could see that they were headed straight for two large docked vessels, the 330-foot F/V GORDON JENSEN and the 400-foot cargo ship SOHOH.

With no engine power to maneuver the vessel, the tide pushed and wedged the F/V KRISTI into a Yokohama fender that was positioned between the two large vessels. A “fender” is a large rubber cylinder filled with air and wrapped in tires, that acts as a buffer to protect large vessels docked close together. The F/V KRISTI was nearly the same size as the fender, and thus the small aluminum vessel began violently bouncing between the two large steel-hulled ships. The smaller vessel twisted and took on water, then sunk seconds after the last crewmember was lifted from the vessel by the crew on the GORDON JENSEN in a rescue basket. See the astonishing video of the sinking here.

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Coast-Guard-MH-60-JayhawkThanks to the swift efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard and good Samaritan F/V Pacific Pearl, three fishermen in Sitka Sound were rescued this week after their vessel began taking on water.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Juneau received a distress call from the captain of the 33-foot F/V Leona at about 10:30pm. It was reported that the vessel was taking on water and bilge pumps were unable to keep up with the rate of flooding. Watchstanders urgently requested an Air Station Sitka Jayhawk MH-60 be dispatched to the scene.

An emergency dewatering pump was lowered onto the vessel, but the F/V Leona was taking on water too rapidly; the pump could not keep up. The three crewmembers were forced to abandon ship as the vessel began sinking into Sitka Sound. The good Samaritan F/V Pacific Pearl was able to take the three crewmembers aboard then transport them to Sitka.

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MYSTIC_LADYThe U.S. Coast Guard rescued five adults and two children after the 58-foot F/V Mystic Lady sunk near Thorne Bay, Alaska.

Shortly after 4am on Friday, June 29th, watchstanders at the Station Ketchikan received a 406-emergency position indication radio beacon alert in addition to a mayday broadcast via VHF-FM Channel 16, that the vessel had hit a rock and was quickly taking on water. A 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew was launched and on their way to the scene by 4:34. The rescue crew traveled approximately 40 miles and reached the mariners by 5:30am. They arrived to find the F/V Mystic Lady underwater and 7 people in an inflatable life raft waving their arms.

“We were the first to arrive on scene, and I’m thankful that we were able to assist these people as quickly as we could,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Fischer, the small boat coxswain during the case. “With the inflatable life raft that the survivors used, they increased their own chances of survival exponentially until we were able to be on scene and assist.”

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Coast-Guard-Adrift-300x225Four mariners required a U. S. Coast Guard rescue when their 48-foot F/V Soulmate became disabled, adrift, and unable to anchor. Watchstanders received the initial distress call from the vessel via VHF radio, but reception was so unreliable that the use of a satellite phone was required.

“This case highlights the importance of having multiple means of communications,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Taylor, a Sector Anchorage watchstander. “The availability of both a VHF radio and a satellite phone on board the vessel allowed for consistent communication with the master providing up to date information and situational reports.”

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Naushon responded to the disabled fishing vessel, located about 57 miles west of Kodiak Island and just south of Shelikof Strait. The Coast Guard Naushon crew towed the four crewmembers of the F/V Soulmate to the south side of Kodiak Island. The mariners took refuge at the Lazy Bay cannery in Alitak Bay.