Mission Savoonga

A trip from Nome to Savoonga, Alaska on board the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley provides a beautiful backdrop for learning more about boating safety and local culture.

A trip from Nome to Savoonga, Alaska on the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley offers wonderful opportunities for learning the basics of boating safely in cold water while experiencing local culture. The Coasties, Eskimos and gold dredgers all shared their experiences in what turned out to be an amazing journey.

Cruising the Bering Sea
The Alex Haley is nicknamed "Bulldog of the Sea." Nobody sits in this chair but the commander.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
On the bridge of the Alex Haley.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
Even though Alex Haley bristles with navigation electronics, navigators continue to plot the course on paper charts.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
Even a Coast Guard Cutter has to carry a copy of the Rules.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
All four 16-cylinder diesels are named for lady pirates like Anne Bonny and Charlotte DeBerry and Grace O’Malley.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
This team was responsible for bringing the Dolphin chopper aboard and running a fire drill as it landed.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
There are no idle moments on the Alex Haley. Here officers are being trained in the use of certain equipment.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
The ingredients of made to order omelets in the galley.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
The Davit operators prepare to lower the tender to take the crew ashore at Savoonga. Their duties are very specialized, highly skilled and the crew jokes the seldom work because of it.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
Coming ashore on the black pea gravel beach of Savoonga.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
The remains of a bowhead whale from the previous season. Bones, once sun bleached, will be used in carvings that bring needed cash to the community.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
Under carefully controlled circumstances Coast Guard crewmen “sank” a boat out from under young Savoonga whalers—all wearing life jackets or float coats—to train them on how to quickly gain control of their breathing and coordination so they could take best advantage of the 10-minute window they have to self-rescue before the cold steals their ability to function.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
Whale skull and the skeleton of a traditional whale boat behind.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
The school at Savoonga was the site of the Coasties community relations boating safety mission.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
Kelli Toth of the Alaska DNR discussed boating safety procedures with the whalers of Savoonga.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
Yupik Eskimos performed their traditional dances in appreciation of the Coast Guard visit.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
At the end of the Alex Haley's community relations mission, the Eskimos put on a traditional Eskimo dance and invited the crew to participate.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
This walrus tusk is from a traditional skull mount. In the skull with matching tusk and Yupik markings, it can sell for as much as $3,000.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
Walrus tusks like this, must each bear this digital tag identifying it electronically as to source and artist.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
Cribbage boards range from $200 to $500 and feature pegs made of slivers of ivory and black baleen.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
This owl on a whale boat is one of the most ornate carvings we saw.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
Coasties Meredith Manning bought a beautiful carved shell brooch.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
A palm tree of a post and strips of baleen was the only “shrub” in Savoonga.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
Nome, Alaska is most famous as the end of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
The central park in Nome features bronze statues like this one that honor the earliest settlers of this area, the Yupik Eskimo.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
Three Swedish miners put Nome in the world spotlight when they discovered gold there.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
Early in the 20th Century enormous dredges looked a little like giant chain saws, each tooth being one of these buckets now used for decoration all over town.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
They are popular for planters.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
Pansies were a favorite flower to cultivate in their short summer.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
Port of Nome is home to fishing vessels, freight boats and gold dredges.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
A group of smaller gold dredges similar to those seen on “Bering Sea Gold” on TV.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
More dredge boats along Prospect Street.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
Dredge boats leave port for a day of suctioning the bottom for gold dust.Randy Vance
Cruising the Bering Sea
The Aurora Marie is not a TV show participant but this miner shows typical "color" in his dredge tray—a modest take that still makes them go back for more.Randy Vance