Saturday, February 21, 2009

Reminisin' 'bout life on da wadder

Visit from an old shipmate

Back in the era shortly before this photo of me as a kelp-diver was taken, I was hanging out with shipmates in Cordova, Alaska. One was Bob Westover. I hadn't seen him but once since the late '60's. He and his wife came up visiting and we all got together. A lot of his memories of those days were a complete blank to me. I used to get drunk a lot and chase the ghost of Dylan Thomas. But we both remembered the night that could have landed us in a military prison. We had a hard-drinking warrent officer sitting behind 3 of us lowly seamen in a bar (Westover, me and Jim Beckwith). Mister Schultz took a disliking to Westover and kept trying to pick a fight with him. We tried to ignore him but he wouldn't leave. He intended to wait for us to walk out at closing time and jump Westover. The bar closed, Schultz walked out, and as soon we were walking out, he tried to reach passed me and grab Westover. I grabbed this big, bear of a man who started spinning me around in the alley. Beckwith ran up and with one punch, placed Schultz on his back. Then Westover ran up (in his motorcycle boots) and started kicking him. Then we left.

Assulting an officer can result in "hard time" in a federal pen. If that wasn't bad enough, we figured that since it was war-time (Viet Nam), they could shoot us. But, what-the-hell, there was no where we could run off to, in the middle of Alaska, so we just went back to the ship to await certain incarceration.

They next morning, he was no where around until about noon. Then he walked back aboard ship with his arm in a sling. He'd just returned from the hospital where they tended to his broken collar bone (thanks to Westover's boots). He never said a word to anyone about the event.

I noticed yesterday, the sixty-something Westover now wears crepe-soled footwear. Ahhhh, maturity.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Begich and Boggs Missing Plane

Last night (2/10/09) I saw on the History Channel, "Alaska's Bermuda Triangle" full coverage of the '72 disappearance of Congressman Nick Begich and Speaker of the House Hale Boggs on a flight from Anchorage to Juneau. I remember the sonic booms of the U.S. spy plane as it searched and photographed a good portion of Alaska. No trace was ever found. It must have been a year or so later that Alaska State Trooper Ron Cole called me over to his office in Cordova to ask me if my diving partner Don Endicott and I could dive on a spot near Hinchinbrook Island. He told me that a local pilot spotted what looked like a fuel slick coming up out of the water about a mile off the beach of Hinchinbrook Island. It's a place called Johnstone Point and is the site of an unmanned white alice navigation facility. Ron showed me that if a straight line were drawn from Anchorage to the Juneau via the normal flight path, it would cross right over Johnstone Point. The slick coming out of the water fell right on that line he drew. He said since no trace was ever found of the plane, perhaps it went into the water. Then, he assume, after a period of time, perhaps some seal in the fuel system finally eroded and the fuel came out. The chart showed the depth was about 600 feet, so I told him "no", we couldn't do it. I don't know if he had any other ideas about what to do, but I hadn't heard anything more about. In those days, most fathometers and sonars were not scanners as far as I know. Anyway, a few months ago, I ran in to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (Nick's son) and told him the story. Sooooo, if any of you out there in cyberland, knows where Ron Cole is now, could you let me know or have him contact at I'd just like to know if there was any follow-up on that situation....Thanks. 
UPDATE: Ron Cole died January 2010. He was a good man. One time he flew to Anchorage on his own time and own expense and retrieved an old senile man who was in danger and brought him back to Cordova. He did that at my request. In turn, I would scuba dive to recover murder weapons for him or submerged bodies at no charge. Those were the days when people did things like that.