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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, AlaskaThursday
December 19, 2019

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Ketchikan: Malaspina Once Rescued Passengers,  Crewmembers From Burning Cruise Ship By DAVE KIFFER - The state ferry Malaspina, which was taken out of service after nearly 60 years earlier this month, was involved in one of the most dramatic rescues on the Canadian Pacific Coast more than 40 years ago.

Malaspina Once Rescued Passengers,  Crewmembers From Burning Cruise Ship

Norwegian death ship Meteor heading to drydock.
METEOR, near Vancouver, B.C.
32 crew members died in a fire on board - May 1971
Original photo from the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society ©

The rescue involved the Norwegian cruise ship "Meteor" which was returning from a trip to Alaska in May of 1971, when a fire broke out in the crew quarters shortly before 3 am on May 22.

According to the H. W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, the Meteor - owned by the Bergen Lines - was the first Scandinavian cruise ship to enter the Alaska market. The 297-foot ship could accommodate 147 passengers, all in first class cabins. But on this particular tour, its second of the season, it only had 67 passengers.  It had a crew of 91.

The ship was passing Texada Island, some 60 miles north of Vancouver, when a fire broke out in the crew quarters in the bow of the ship. An investigation determined that a cigarette caught a mattress on fire which further ignited some freshly varnished woodwork and caused the fire to spread so quickly through the forecastle that more than a third of the crew was trapped and unable to escaped. The  death toll would be 32.

The Meteor broadcast a mayday call on VHF Channel 6 rather than the international distress frequency, which was the one required by law to be monitored 24 hours a days by all vessel. Luckily for the Meteor, the Malaspina had left Seattle not long before and First Mate Walter Jackinsky heard the distress call.

"We headed right there - I got the Captain out and we headed full bore right for it," he wrote in his 2004 memoir "Any Tonnage, Any Ocean." "We were loaded full, out of Seattle, going to Ketchikan. We were the first one there. You could see the smoke coming out through the portholes,. Some of the guys were sticking their heads out, trying to get some air, I guess they couldn't get above deck. We got the lifeboats out and got as close as we could, and gosh, the passengers came in their nightgowns. They came aboard in nightgowns, and we had coffee and donuts for them. The stewards gave them their little white jackets. That's what they wore when they went ashore in Vancouver."

The Malaspina diverted to Vancouver with the 67 passengers and four injured crew members. Meanwhile two Canadian coast guard cutters and a salvage tug boat helped put out the fire and stabilize the ship which managed to get to Vancouver under its own power despite a 15-degree list. The bodies of the dead crew members were removed. During a later inquiry Captain Alf Morner recounted crawling into the forward section of the ship to help fight the fire and being shocked at the number of crewmembers who had died not from the fire but the smoke.

A story in the July 17, 1971 Seattle Post Intelligencer noted that Jackinsky and Malaspina Captain Harold Payne were both honored by the US Maritime Administration which noted that the safe rescue of the passengers and the surviving crew of the ship occurred under the "highest traditions of the United States Merchant Marine." - More...
Thursday PM - December 19, 2019


Southeast Alaska: Tongass National Forest, VetsWork partner to provide career training for veterans - The Tongass National Forest and Mt. Adams Institute announced a new partnership bringing the national career-training program for military veterans, VetsWork Environment, to the forest. The VetsWork program provides an opportunity for local veterans to transition to a career in natural resources and public lands management.

The forest is hosting a 45-week, hands-on internship in which participants will learn new skills while supporting recreation, visitor services, and surveying projects across the forest.

The internship positions are based out of Hoonah, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Petersburg, and begin on February 3, 2020.

Participants receive a modest living stipend, basic health insurance, an AmeriCorps education award of $6,195 and other benefits including potential housing assistance. As a result of the program’s success, the Department of Labor has designated VetsWork as an official apprenticeship program, which allows participants to access additional GI Bill benefits. - More...
Thursday PM - December 19, 2019

Southeast Alaska: 99-Year Sentence in Klawock Murder - Sitka Superior Court Judge Jude Pate sentenced Prince of Wales resident Albert Macasaet last week to a 99-year sentence in the 2016 strangulation death of Judylee Guthrie, his girlfriend and mother of his two children.

A Sitka jury convicted Macasaet in May after a two-week trial. State prosecutors Charles Agerter and Paul Miovas presented evidence that Macasaet strangled Guthrie to death with a string from her hooded sweatshirt during an argument, killing her. The next day, Macasaet reported Guthrie as missing. 

On the morning of Guthrie’s disappearance, local law enforcement officers from the Klawock Police Department, Craig Police Department and Alaska State Troopers worked closely together, diligently searching for Guthrie. They were immediately suspicious of Macasaet’s version of the events and concerned Macasaet may have been involved in her disappearance. When Guthrie’s half-clothed body was found partially submerged in a puddle off a local logging trail, they requested the assistance of the Alaska Bureau of Investigation (ABI), an Anchorage-based unit of the Alaska State Troopers that provides statewide support with serious crimes. Investigators from ABI immediately deployed to the area to lend specialized assistance.

In his sentencing memorandum to the court, Assistant District Attorney Charles Agerter detailed the victim’s devotion to her culture and community and emphasized her mentorship of the younger generation through her work at the Boys and Girls Club in Klawock. Assistant District Attorney Agerter asked the court to find Macasaet a “worst offender” under the law and sentence him to maximum term of imprisonment.  - More...
Thursday PM - December 19, 2019

Resident orcas' appetite likely reason for decline of big Chinook salmon

Resident orcas' appetite likely reason for decline of big Chinook salmon
Title from sleeve. Walter O. 'Bo' Smith stands with two large salmon hanging from hook in warehouse area. Location: Ketchikan. Alaska - May 15, 1966
Steve McCutcheon Collection
Courtesy Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center.


Alaska: Resident orcas' appetite likely reason for decline of big Chinook salmon - Killer whales prefer to eat only the biggest, juiciest Chinook salmon they can find. The larger the fish, the more energy a whale can get for its meal.

Each year these top ocean predators consume more than 2.5 million adult Chinook salmon along the West Coast. Except for the endangered southern resident population in Washington, all other fish-eating orca populations that live along the coast, called "residents," are growing in number. Northern residents along the British Columbia coast number more than 300 whales, for example, while Alaska orcas are close to 2,300 individuals.

But large, old Chinook salmon that orcas crave have mostly disappeared from the West Coast. A new University of Washington and NOAA study points to the recent rise of resident killer whales, and their insatiable appetite for large Chinook salmon, as the main driver behind the decline of the big fish. 

The findings were published Dec. 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

"We have two protected species, resident killer whales and Chinook salmon, and we are trying to increase abundances of both -- yet they are interacting as predator and prey," said lead author Jan Ohlberger, a research scientist at the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. "Killer whales don't show a lot of interest in Chinook until they reach a certain size, and then they focus intensely on those individuals."

Chinook salmon are born in freshwater rivers and streams, then migrate to the ocean where they spend most of their lives feeding and growing. Each population's lifestyle in the ocean varies, mainly depending on what stream they were born in and where they can find food. Washington and Oregon fish often migrate thousands of miles north to the Gulf of Alaska where they feed and fatten up before embarking on their migrations back to rivers in the Pacific Northwest to spawn. 

As they return south to spawn in their home streams, Pacific Northwest salmon pass through the feeding grounds of several different killer whale populations, which appear to have a keen affinity for big Chinook. It's possible these thriving killer whales are essentially stealing a meal from the southern resident orca population, which is struggling to maintain 73 individuals.

"We like to think of the Pacific Ocean as a really big place, but that's because we are really lousy swimmers. For killer whales and salmon, it's not a big place," said co-author Daniel Schindler, a UW professor of aquatic and fishery sciences. While different orca populations avoid each other in the ocean, they inherently overlap their whole lives when competing for the same prey, he explained.

It used to be common to find Chinook salmon 40 inches or more in length, particularly in the Columbia River or Alaska's Kenai Peninsula and Copper River regions. The average declines in body size -- about 10% in length and 25 to 30% in overall weight -- could have a long-term impact on the productivity of Chinook salmon populations. Smaller females carry fewer and smaller eggs, so over time the number of fish that hatch and survive to adulthood may decrease.

Resident orcas usually don't go for Chinook until they reach about 25 inches in length, and they really prefer fish that are over 30 inches long, the researchers said.  - More...
Thursday PM - December 19, 2019

Easy prey: The largest bears in the world use small streams to fatten up on salmon

Easy prey: The largest bears in the world use small streams to fatten up on salmon
An Alaska brown bear, also known as a grizzly, stands over a just-caught salmon.
Photo By Jonny Armstrong, Oregon State University


Alaska: Easy prey: The largest bears in the world use small streams to fatten up on salmon - It's a familiar scene to anyone who's watched footage of brown bears catching sockeye salmon in Alaska: They're standing knee-deep in a rushing river, usually near a waterfall, and grabbing passing fish with their paws or jaws.

But a new study published in the journal Conservation Letters reveals a different picture of how and when bears eat salmon. Most of these bears, also known as grizzlies, are dipping into small streams to capture their iconic prey.

Using a foraging model based on the Wood River basin in southwest Alaska, a study team led by Oregon State University determined that while small-stream habitats have only about 20% of the available salmon in the watershed, they provide 50% of bear consumption of salmon.

"This tells us that populations of sockeye salmon that spawn in little streams are disproportionately important to bears," said study lead author Jonny Armstrong, an ecologist at Oregon State University. "Bears profit from these small streams because they offer salmon at unique times of the season. To capitalize on plentiful salmon runs, bears need them to be spread across time."

Small streams typically have cold water, which leads to populations of salmon that spawn much earlier in the season when no other populations are available to predators such as bears.

These results have potential consequences for how environmental impact assessments are conducted and evaluated for large projects such as the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska's Bristol Bay.

These reports typically focus on how the project will affect the abundance of salmon in lakes and rivers, but they usually overlook smaller habitats, Armstrong said.

"When people want to build a large mine, they think these streams don't matter because they represent a small fraction a watershed, in terms of area or salmon abundance. In conservation and management, we generally place value on the largest runs of salmon at the expense of the smallest ones," Armstrong said. "If we pose a different question and ask which habitats are important for the ecosystem, then small streams become particularly relevant."

The researchers developed a mathematical model that explores how watershed development and commercial fisheries affect how many sockeye salmon are available to grizzlies. The model simulated different patterns of development and explored how they affected the number of salmon bears consumed.

Protecting large salmon runs at the expense of smaller ones turned out to be bad for bears. - More...
Thursday PM - December 19, 2019

The demise of Scotch Cap Lighthouse

The demise of Scotch Cap Lighthouse

Scotch Cap Lighthouse sits on the southwest shore of Unimak Island two months before the giant wave of April 1, 1946.
Photo courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Coast Guard

Alaska: The demise of Scotch Cap Lighthouse By NED ROZELL - In spring of 1946, five men stationed at the Scotch Cap Lighthouse had reasons to be happy. World War II was over. They had survived. Their lonely Coast Guard assignment on Unimak Island would be over in a few months.

But the lighthouse tenders would never return to their homes in the Lower 48. In the early morning of April 1, the earth ruptured deep within the Aleutian Trench 90 miles south. An immense block of ocean floor rose, tipping salt water across the North Pacific.

The earthquake was giant, at least magnitude 8.1. The tsunami that resulted killed 159 people in Hawaii, drowned a swimmer in Santa Cruz, banged up fishing boats in Chile and wrecked a hut on Antarctica. The curve of the Aleutians protected much of Alaska, but the five men at Scotch Cap had no chance.

A 130-foot wave struck the lighthouse at 2:18 a.m., leaving nothing but the foundation of the reinforced concrete structure. Though scientists long thought the wave was due to the earthquake rupture, John Miller of the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver recently showed a mountain of rocks on the sea floor that appears to be from a massive underwater landslide. That slide might have created the giant wave that hit the lighthouse.

The story of Coast Guardsmen Anthony Petit, Jack Colvin, Dewey Dykstra, Leonard Pickering and Paul Ness is 73 years old and is spotty. Enduring online is a memo to his superiors written by Coast Guard electrician Hoban Sanford, who was stationed on Unimak to maintain a radio direction-finding system.

Sanford was reading in his bunk early that April Fool’s morning in a building located on a terrace about 100 feet above the lighthouse.

“A severe earthquake was felt,” Sanford wrote. “The building creaked and groaned loudly. Objects were shaken from my locker shelf. Duration of the quake was approximately 30 to 35 seconds.”

Knowing he was stationed on an island of restless mountains that include the steaming white pyramid of Shishaldin, Sanford looked inland for the glow of a possible eruption. He saw nothing but stars.

Then, 20 minutes after feeling the first earthquake, “a second severe quake was felt. This one was shorter in duration (than the first), but harder.”

Minutes later, a wave struck Sanford’s quarters.

“At 0218 a terrible roaring sound was heard followed almost immediately by a very heavy blow against the side of the building and about three inches of water appeared in the galley recreation hall and passageway . . . I went to the control room and . . . broadcast a priority message stating we had been struck by a tidal wave and might have to abandon the station.” - More...
Thursday PM - December 19, 2019



DANNY TYREE: Are You Tired of Updating Your Apps? - Do you share my frustration at being required to update smartphone apps at the most inopportune of times?

With aggravating regularity, my quick lunchtime stops at fast-food chains have become anything but efficient. Silly me, I turn to the restaurant’s “trusty” app for the daily deals, only to be told that the app I updated two weeks ago is suddenly in need of ANOTHER crucial update and will not function AT ALL until I genuflect to the code-writing gods and redo the whole process.

(When a corporation’s “best and brightest” are constantly experiencing “Oh, wait, I forgot something” moments, don’t expect me to place oodles of confidence in the “Employees must wash hands after using restroom” signs.)

Okay, I’m hungry and cheap, so I sheepishly step out of line and try downloading, installing, lathering, rinsing and repeating what I thought had been a perfectly serviceable application.

The “update, order, eat and get back to work” process grinds to a standstill when the app outright LIES to me and insists I don’t have enough space on my phone and that I will have to DELETE one of my other apps. So instead of enjoying a leisurely meal at an eatery where my family and I made many carefree memories in halcyon pre-app days, I am plunged into a nerve-racking game of “The rowboat is sinking, and you can save only your wife OR your child! PICK ONE! Tick tock, tick tock!”

I seldom notice any practical technological improvements when I comply with the command to update. I can handle a human being asking me, “You want fries with that?”; but I come unglued when an anonymous programmer asks me, “You want bells and whistles with that?” - More...
Thursday PM - December 19, 2019


RICH MANIER: Political Rhetoric Speaks Volumes About Impeachment - If you observe politics the way I do – as one stares at a five-car pileup on the freeway – your gaping will always be rewarded.

The House voted on Wednesday to impeach President Trump, but the rhetoric in the run-up to impeachment said a lot about the process. If you enjoy political hyperbole, you weren’t disappointed.

During the debate on articles of impeachment, Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) searched for analogies to make a point about the injustice of Trump’s impeachment and came up with a doozy.

“Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded to this president,” he said.

Loudermilk said that “when Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers.”

I see his point but I don’t think I would have gone there.

Trump himself went a little more current in a letter to Nancy Pelosi.

“More due process was afforded to those in the Salem Witch Trials.”

I said “more current” not recent.

About Trump’s letter to Pelosi. Five pages and a lot of anger. There’s really no news in it unless it’s news that Trump is really, really upset, or that he likes to use a lot of exclamation points when he writes. He especially likes to use exclamation points at the end of paragraphs. - More...
Thursday PM - December 19, 2019

jpg Political Cartoon: Dems Shoot Eye Out

Political Cartoon: Dems Shoot Eye Out
By Rick McKee ©2019, Counterpoint
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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jpg Opinion

City's “Berth Lease Proposals” By Mike Cruise - Mike Holman and Charlie Freeman have recently written opinion / information letters about the City's “Berth Lease Proposals”. These actions would surrender the community’s four downtown cruise-ship docks to private control for up to 30 years. Mike and Charlie have been around and I value their opinions. On this issue I think they are absolutely right……. This is not a wise decision and the process being used doesn’t pass the “smell” test.

We are always reminded that issues like these are too difficult, complicated and delicate for the Ketchikan Voters to grasp and should not be put up for them to advise or decide on. Somehow, those same voters were wise enough to elect the people who make these disparaging remarks. I guess that this proves or destroys the argument, depending on your point of view.

All that aside, the issue of the Berth Lease Proposals is of such importance that any and all impute should be sought, considered and evaluated….. even by those local leaders who believe that the public is too dumb to have anything of value to say. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

jpg Opinion

“Alaskans for Better Elections” Seeks to Destroy Alaska’s Voting System By Ann Brown - The day before the Independence Day holiday last summer, local progressives quietly filed a petition ironically named "Alaskans for Better Elections," which would destroy the integrity of Alaska's elections. If passed the ballot initiative would bring us ranked-choice voting.* The petition was sponsored, in part, by former District 22 Representative Jason Grenn. You may remember that Mr. Grenn was soundly defeated by now-Representative Sara Rasmussen in 2018.

Are sour grapes on the menu here?

In a ranked-choice general election, voters would "rank” their choice of four candidates for a given office. Candidates garnering more than fifty percent of the vote in the first ranking would win office immediately. If no one person wins a majority, candidates are whittled away, and ranking continues until one individual is declared the winner.

This initiative is backed nearly entirely by outside donations; its major supporter is a Colorado-based organization which gave $500,000 in one pop last month. - More..
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

jpg Opinion

Corruption By Dominic Salvato - Sealaska shareholders are the one's to blame for allowing a handful of native leaders to convert our combined assets into personal wealth for Sealaska's management. Compensation for executives have topped 75 million dollars in the last decade.

We allowed Sealaska's management to continue past the original date for the stock to be placed under each shareholder control. Shareholder never voted to continue. Managements decided to continue because the shares were worthless.

For fifty years we have allowed the corporation to isolate us further from control of our stock, by raising the total percentage of voting stock to sell, form 50% plus1, to 75% plus 1. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

jpg Opinion

MUCH WORSE THAN WATERGATE By David G Hanger - The words of Michelle Goldberg really say it all, “This administration is rotten to the core and fundamentally disloyal to the country it purports to serve. So is every politician who still tries to explain its corruption away.” This is much worse than Watergate because what we have here is treason specifically intended to benefit the Russians and Trump’s handler, Vlad Putin.

Many of you are the children and the grandchildren of the folks who were here in the 1950s and the 1960s, and a whole bunch of them were John Birchers, right-wing extremists who obsessively believed in a vast “international Communist conspiracy” that in fact never existed. The Russians, the Chinese, and the Vietnamese, for example, are not friends. Albeit over the top with their obsession to a considerable degree, they were quite correct in identifying Russia as an enemy. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

jpg Opinion

Russia and China Missile Threats By Donald Moskowitz - President Trump is correct in withdrawing from the intermediate range missile treaty with Russia enacted 30 years ago, because Russia broke the treaty with its missile development. 

Another problem with the treaty was it did not prevent non-treaty countries from developing intermediate range missiles; and China has developed and deployed intermediate range missiles. The Chinese missiles can outperform our defensive systems that protect Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

As a former Navy enlisted and officer (Penn State 1963, NROTC) I am concerned with the Chinese missiles designed to thwart the capabilities of our aircraft carriers, because the anti-ship missiles can be launched beyond the range of our carrier based aircraft.  This places us at a disadvantage countering Chinese threats in the Far East. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

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