On August 28, Coos Bay resident and commercial fisherman Frank Akers was fishing off the coast near Newport, looking for tuna. Water conditions were rough that night, with 15-foot swells and winds speeds around 29-mph.
Around 10 p.m. a wave struck Akers’ vessel, the Lanola, dealing the ship a crushing blow, in the words of the fisherman. It wasn’t long before the ship was submerged completely, leaving Akers shoeless and stranded on a life raft. “That’s when I was scared the most,” he said. Perfectly reasonable, as one of his friends had been stranded for four days before he was rescued.
Akers, fortunately, didn’t have to wait that long as the Oregon State University research vessel Oceanus received his distress call and sailed to the rescue. The crew of the Oceanus that night was made up of students and researchers from the University of Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, out cataloging invertebrates. They were quick to respond to the call, hauling up their equipment and pulling the life raft to them with a grappling hook.
It was fortunate that the Oceanus was in the area, according to Institute of Marine Biology director Craig Young. “Because of our change in sampling sites we were…in the right place at the right time.”
Young also noted the difficult conditions that night, saying that the waves were tall enough to knock over some of the sailors aboard the Oceanus. “The conditions…were about as bad as any I’d ever tried to work in,” he said.
OIMB’s team was collecting data for the ongoing project “Oregon Shelf Invertebrates,” a guide to sea life in the Oregon Coast’s deeper waters. The project itself is an intergenerational effort, with most entries written by marine biology undergrads. The Oceanus itself was operated by OSU and owned by the National Science Foundation.