NOT FAR FROM SITE OF FAMOUS SHIPWRECK
Crew members from a fishing vessel out of Sitka are safe today after their vessel was grounded near an island that is the site of a famous 1908 shipwreck.
The crew had on Sunday practiced an emergency drill that included the donning of their cold weather survival suits while in port in Sitka. The Masonic had also requested and received a commercial fishing vessel dockside examination prior to departing on this fishing trip. That proved timely.
When it was pitch black at 2:33 am near Cape Decision, south of Sitka and west of Wrangell, the crew sent a “Mayday, vessel Masonic going down” call, which was received by Coast Guard Sector Juneau Command Center watchstanders. A Sitka-based MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter was able to locate the crew and hoist them to safety.
The Coast Guard had not been able to contact the group by radio to determine their exact location but the rescuers found the life raft an hour later on the north side of Coronation Island, where they had tied their inflatable to the stern of their grounded vessel. The weather was showery, 45 degrees F, and winds were about four knots.
Watch the rescue from the Jayhawk helicopter perspective here as swimmers reach the men in the life raft:
“This case highlights how being prepared for an emergency situation is critical in the dangerous environment that we live and work in,” said Capt. Stephen White, Sector Juneau Commander. “I’m thankful that the crew of the Masonic was prepared. It probably saved their lives. In addition, the AIS position from the vessel was instrumental in our ability to quickly locate the survivors, as it took the ‘search’ out of ‘search and rescue.’”
CORONATION ISLAND, THE SITE OF THE SINKING OF THE STAR OF BENGAL
In 1908, a cannery sailing ship, the Star of Bengal, sank at Coronation Island, which is characterized by rocky shores. The three-masted ship with 138 souls on board was loaded with 52,000 cases of canned salmon, empty steel oil drums, and was heading south from the Gulf of Alaska at the end of September.
The ship encountered heavy weather that became a gale, and the schooner broke apart in the surf. About 111 died, according to the Lost Shipwrecks website, with most of them being Chinese cannery workers who were below deck went the ship broke apart. The site is sometimes thought to be haunted.