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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Deadliest Catch, et al.

Unlike rumors that get around faster than light, real news usually does not. For instance this U. S. Coast Guard press release did not make it as a worldwide news or even the attention of Google Search with this real life human tragedy that happened south of Bearing Sea last October:
JUNEAU, Alaska - The Coast Guard has responded to the fishing vessel Ocean Challenger, 60 miles south of Sand Point in the Aleutian Island Chain after receiving a mayday call relayed by the car carrier Overseas Joyce at 9:39 a.m. today.

Three of the Ocean Challenger's four crewmembers were recovered after falling overboard during the capsizing.

The three recovered crewmembers were hoisted by a Coast Guard rescue helicopter and flown to a medical facility in Cold Bay.

Two of the recovered Ocean Challenger crewmembers have been pronounced dead by a Coast Guard flight surgeon.

Names of crewmembers will not be released until next of kin have been notified.

The search continues for the remaining crewmember.

It was not exactly a case of freaque waves, so I was not aware of the case until today. But waves were deeply involved in this case nevertheless. A couple of bloggers reported the case. Peter Stinson of Tidewater Musings reported it a couple of days after the occurrence:
Two men died and a third was missing after a commercial fishing boat capsized south of the Alaska Peninsula. A fourth crewman from Lynchburg was plucked from the North Pacific and was in critical condition.

The 49-foot, 50-ton Ocean Challenger, whose home port is Adak in the Aleutian Islands, disappeared about 60 miles south of Sand Point, a community on Popof Island off the tip of the Alaska Peninsula.
But Stinson is from Portmouth, Virginia. It was really the Safety Engineer Kenneth Lawrenson of Ken-and-Julie-in-Alaska, who actually was part of the Coast Guard rescue effort provided hands-on report in his blog here and here. And of course Anchorage Daily News reported the case completely with relevant picture and map.
I came across to this case belatedly this morning from reading a commentary by Carey Roberts entitled: "The Deadliest Catch: A Tale of Exceptional Men" which he starts his article by recount this Ocean Challenger case last October. "The Deadliest Catch" is of course the Discovery Channel's on-going TV series. Not having cable TV at home, I was glued to the Discovery Channel in the late evening watching this Deadliest Catch show when attending a meeting in San Diego recently. So I find myself reasonably familiar with his description as:
The mind-numbing routine is repeated dozens of times each day: bait the pot, plunge the 800-pound cage into the frigid water, and let it soak on the muddy bottom.

A day later the captain retraces his path. As the boat approaches, the deckhand snags the buoy line with a 4-pronged hook and the winch yanks the careening pot over the rail. The men extract the squirming snow crabs and shuttle them to a holding tank.

If Lady Luck is smiling that day, the pots are brimming with four or five hundred opies, what they call “red gold.” At times like this the deckhands don’t worry about the 18-hour work shifts, towering waves, or aching hands.
And certainly this:
A fisherman’s biggest fear is being hit with a rogue wave, a 50-foot high wall of water that comes barreling out of nowhere and hits the boat broadside. If you’re lucky, the boat rights itself within a heart-stopping minute. But if your crab pots are coated in three inches of ice and stacked high on the foredeck, your only hope is a rubberized survival suit.
Clearly no one could disagree with Roberts' comment:
The tragedy calls to mind the words of Sir Walter Scott: “Those aren’t fish you’re buying; it’s men’s lives.”
And no one should complain why the crabs in the supermarket are so expansive. I agree those crab fishermen are truly exceptional. They put their life on the line in their daily work -- and three of them in Ocean Challenger paid with theirs. I can not last more than a few minutes out there even when I was young and healthy. At any rate "The Deadliest Catch" is an exceptional TV series with real life ventures. It may be worthwhile to get the cable just to watch this one show. But I'll wait for the DVD!

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