It was late November, recognized as one of the coldest periods to be on a ship near Alaska. The Coast Guard cutter Jarvis had run aground during a severe storm and was taking on water. Temporarily patching the hole, the ship attempted to sail toward safer waters when all hell broke loose from an even more violent storm. The patch broke free, and the engine room began to fill with water, soon disabling the engines.
Out on the deck, the crew was taking a pounding from mother nature. The ship was taking severe rolls from the wind and the high seas; at one time, struck with a sixty-degree roll. Communicating with each other was extremely difficult or impossible due to the environment; crewmembers had to rely on training and instinct to perform their jobs.
The water level in the engine room was the same as outside, all engines were dead, no fresh water, with very little cooking. Combined with the exhaustive and lengthy working conditions in the filthy water, the lack of hot water and heat, crewmember sanitation needs were severely ‘lacking.’
Captain Wooley surveyed the situation: the engine room was flooded, resulting in the loss of power; ‘mountainous seas’ and gale force winds were pounding Jarvis, and freezing working conditions had caused several of the crewmen to show signs of sickness. To make matters worse, the ship was floating toward a rocky coastline that would destroy it and probably kill most, if not all, of the men.
With the ship in peril, Wooley ordered an emergency message be sent to the 17th Coast Guard District Office in Juneau requesting Coast Guard assistance. Within minutes, the district office replied there were no Coast Guard assets near enough to provide immediate help.
At 7:04 pm, for one of the few times in Coast Guard history, a ‘MAYDAY’ call for help would come from a Coast Guard vessel.
Book "All Present and Accounted For" by Captain Steven Craig, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve (retired). Published by Hellgate Press; scheduled for release in November 2019. Website: www.stevenjcraigbooks.com E-mail: SCraig7002@gmail.com