SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska




October 04, 2008

Ketchikan, Alaska - One of the most gripping tales of survival in the Alaskan wilderness will be recounted in a slide show on Friday evening, October 10th, at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. John Tippets, author of the recently published book, "Hearts of Courage", will present this amazing story, which unfolded just thirty-five miles southeast of Ketchikan in the winter of 1943.

jpg Harold Gillam

Harold Gillam in the cockpit of his Ski-equipped Waco
Donor: Don Dawson...
Photo courtesy Tongass Historical Society

On January 5, 1943, a twin-engine plane, flown by the legendary bush pilot Harold Gillam and carrying five passengers, crashed on a forested, snow-covered mountainside while trying to reach the airport on Annette Island.

All six aboard survived the crash, but one of the passengers, a young woman, died a few days later. Gillam set off in search of help, and was never heard from again. Of the four remaining passengers, two were immobilized by injuries sustained in the crash.

U.S. and Canadian military units and the Coast Guard conducted an extensive search for the downed plane, but after a few weeks the search was suspended, and the occupants of the plane were assumed dead. Finally, more than a month after the crash, two of the survivors were spotted by a passing patrol boat. A few days later, the other two survivors, barely alive, were also rescued.

John Tippets is the son of Joseph Tippets, one of survivors of the Gillam crash. His book recounts, not only the crash and its aftermath, the ordeal of survival, and the ultimate rescue, but also the anguish of Mrs. Tippets, who refused to believe that her husband was dead, long after the search had been abandoned. Local artists Terry Pyles and Dave Rubin and photographer Chip Porter contributed to the production of the book.

The slide presentation will begin at 7:45 PM. From 7:00 to 7:45, copies of "Hearts of Courage" will be on sale in the Discovery Center lobby, and Mr. Tippets will be available to sign them. Cookies and coffee will be provided.

This free program is presented by the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center and the Tongass Historical Society.


Related Feature Story:

Harold Gillam: A Tragic Final Flight; Ketchikan remembers the search By JUNE ALLEN - Harold Gillam was among the boldest of those gutsy pioneer bush pilots who painted Alaska's early aviation history on an enormous canvas of rugged and unforgiving wilderness often cradled in the foulest, most extreme weather on the planet. Oldtime pilots said that there were three kinds of Alaska weather: clear and unlimited, called Pan Am weather; then ordinary weather, and lastly, there was "Gillam weather." While more prudent pilots sat out the worst days, the quiet-loner Gillam would shake his head and say, "The weather's never as bad as it looks." - More...
SitNews - August 17, 2004



E-mail your news & photos to

Publish A Letter in SitNews         Read Letters/Opinions

Contact the Editor

SitNews ©2008
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska