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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 20, 2002 - Issue 59


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Alaska Legislature Honors Lifesaving Aleut Fishing Captain

credits:This youngster wanted to grow up and be just like Dad. 1938 National Marine Fisheries Service
This youngster wanted to grow up and be just like Dad. 1938 National Marine Fisheries Service Dwain Foster apparently has made a habit of saving lives on the open seas.

Foster, a 46-year-old Aleut fisherman from Sand Point in the eastern Aleutians, and his crew of three rescued the crew of a sinking fishing vessel in the North Pacific Ocean in February, according to a citation by the Alaska Legislature.

Foster and his crew pulled off a "daring midnight rescue," the Legislature said in its commendation last month.

It was not the first time Foster plucked people from a churning ocean. Twice in 1980, Foster saved men whose boats had rolled and sank.

Foster and his crew, which included his son, Dwain "Tony" Foster, were fishing from his vessel Temptation on the night of Feb. 17 near Sanak Island. Shortly before midnight, they learned that another vessel, the Tradewind, had capsized 35 miles south of King Cove on the Alaska Peninsula.

When Dwain Foster and his men reached the Tradewind 25 minutes later, its three crewmen, led by Foster's nephew, John Foster Jr., were clinging to the submerged hull.

The three never had time to don protective suits. Winds of 35 mph, below-freezing temperatures and swells of 8 to 10 feet put them in extreme danger, according to the Aleutians East Borough.

The risk of getting entangled with the Tradewind's rigging, however, prevented the elder Foster and his crew from closing in on the submerged vessel, so they threw the three men a line and dragged them to safety.

Lt. Cmdr. Sue Workman of the US Coast Guard said the three likely would have died had it not been for Foster's quick arrival.

On Feb. 17, 1980, Foster and his crew were crabbing near Pavlov Bay on the south side of the Alaska Peninsula when they got a mayday call from the Oregon Dawn, another crabber a few miles away.

As they would do exactly 22 years later, Foster and his crew quickly covered the distance and spotted the crew sitting on an upturned hull. Winds howled at 80 mph, and it was impossible to get close to the sinking vessel. But then the Oregon Dawn's life raft broke free and its crew climbed in.

Foster and his men pulled the victims to safety.

In October 1980, another crabber sank near Beaver Bay in fierce winds and high seas. When Foster and his crew initially arrived, they could not see the crew, who were tied to buoys. Eventually they spotted them and pulled them to safety.

Rep. Carl Moses noted the islands' seagoing traditions in the legislative citation honoring Foster: "Since time immemorial," Moses wrote, "Aleuts have been the greatest seafarers in the world and have taken care of one another."

Sand Point, AK Map
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