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Sunday, January 28, 2007

The loss of Ocean Challenger

There is a saying that goes something like “all news is local!” which is certainly true. In this era of internet, one would expect that important news can also made global rapidly. I have been relying on the Google Alert to hear about freaque wave occurrences around the world. But this news of October 2006 on the loss of commercial fishing vessel Ocean Challenger in the Aleutian Islands area somehow missed by Google Alert. I came across this case this weekend from this North Pacific blog and this Forum, and this news article of Anchorage Daily News.

As I have noticed continually that vessels in th 15 to 25 meter size range have loomed up to be most vulnerable to freaque wave or large storm wave attacks. This Ocean Challenger, a 58 ft commercial fishing boat, is certainly belong to that vulnerable group.






























Here's what had happened that day according to this blogger:

It was about 10 o’clock in the morning of October 18, when the 600 foot car-carrier, M/V Overseas Joyce, heard the mayday call from the 58 foot F/V Ocean Challenger. The freighter was close enough for her crew to watch with shock as the fishing boat deployed her life raft in seas nearly 3 stories high. Shock gave way to horror as the smaller craft capsized, sending all of her crew into the frigid waters of the Bering Sea.
The master of the Overseas Joyce immediately relayed the distress call and location - approximately 60 miles south of Sand Point - to the US Coast Guard. Air Station Kodiak launched a C-130 air plane, an HH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter, and the USCG cutter Munro. The car carrier and a second freighter, the R.J. Phifer, a 500-foot container ship, remained to help in the search.
The Jayhawk arrived on scene approximately an hour after the call. The conditions were reported as 50-knot winds, 30-foot seas and a temperature of about 45 degrees. Brutal on land, deadly at sea.
The crew of the Jayhawk, locating the only man wearing a survival suit, lowered a rescue basket into the frenzied waters and hoisted , Kevin Ferrell, 28, originally of Lynchburg, Va. to safety.
The Coast Guard rescue swimmer reached the skipper, 51 year old David “Cowboy” Hasselquist of Hoonah, and 26 year old Walter Foster, of Westport, Washington only to have them pronounced dead by the flight surgeon.
Still missing is Steve Esparza, 26, of Kodiak, Alaska.
Coast Guard C-130 pilot Lt. Jerred Williams said he arrived on scene in the afternoon with a second crew to look for the missing man. “The waves were so high you actually got white caps at the top of the wave,” he said. “And, then, with the wind streaking across the blue water, and the white turbulence everywhere, it made it very challenging to find a person in the water.”
The high waves and wind eventually made the search almost impossible by air so only the Munro continued the search for Esparza into the evening. The Coast Guard called off the search just before 8 p.m. that Thursday night. The search covered approximately 1,730 square miles, and lasted 46 hours and 20 minutes.
Kevin Ferrell was flown to the Cold Bay Clinic, about 50 miles away, then to an Anchorage hospital.

Yes, this is a local news story. But it is a local news of real people. The 51 year old skipper, well liked and known to the locals as simply "Cowboy," worked his way up the ranks from a deckhand to skipper while capturing fishing experiences in the Aleutians and Bearing Sea and supporting a loving family. As this Forum member named 'itdincor" from Sand Point, Alaska, commented:

"Cowboy was a good man, and a good captain. But the sea is a liar, who will kill you and not even notice. And the Ocean Challenger was a very good boat. Sometimes it is not possible to survive what the sea gives.

"You may not care, but we in this town do. Try to remember this, the next time you have a fish dinner. Men often die to bring you dinner."
For a non-fishing mortal like me, I must admit that I always enjoy sea foods but hardly ever think about the hardship where those wonderful things were come from! But as a freaque waves researcher, I do share the trials and tribulations of having to face the freaque waves daily without knowing where, when, why, what, or how to effectively cope with the menace of those freaque waves at the present. What a pity we spent tons of funding resources to wrangle about a possible temperature increase 100 years from now, but no research attention in terms of funding is at all available to help extricate those commercial fishermen's daily plights here and now!

3 comments:

Hal Granum said...

Your comments on "The loss of Ocean Challenger" rings true. I lived in Unalaska in the Bering Sea and can attest to the fact that storms at sea are unbelievably violent. I was not a fisherman but can appreciate what they went through to put fish on our dinner plate. Great article and very thought provoking.

Hal Granum
Granumharold@comcast.net
www.halgranum.com

april hart said...

my condolences go out to the family of the deceased.... it is a sad story to read and very unfortunate that they could not find the missing man may his body rest in peace. I guess it is true as to when people say they will pass loving what they do. I didnt't here about this story until today when i watched worlds most dangerous catch. When they had shown the episode my heart sank I couldnt remove myself from the television because I wanted to make sure they were all fine until they said 3 had passed. It's unbelieveable what could happen in a matter of seconds. For them to pass so young is a tragedy itself. Next time i eat seafood I will make sure to remember those men who risked their lives so we can enjoy our meals. R.I.P. men for you are gone but never forgotten!

April.

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