United States Coast Guard - 200th Anniversary


The Coast Guard cutter Haida and the lighthouse tender Cedar prepare to rescue the passengers and crew from the sailing vessel Star of Palkiand near Unimak Pass, Alaska on May 23, 1928.

By the beginning of the 20th century many people realized the potential use of the vast natural resources in the Alaskan Territory One of the largest commercial concerns was fishing and the canning industry The Alaska Packers Association, the dominant fishing organization in the territory, at one time maintained a fleet of nineteen ships, all whose names began with the word Star. The "Star fleet" was anchored in San Francisco during the winter and in the spring was loaded with supplies, fishermen and Chinese cannery workers for a 2,500 mile trip north. After fishing for salmon during the summer months the ships were loaded once again in the fall with canned and boxed salmon and returned to San Francisco.

Star of Falkiand had an extremely interesting career before its end on the rocks along the Alaskan coast. Built in Glasgow in 1892, it was christened as Dzinbridge, displacing 2,330 tons. Germany bought the ship several years later and renamed it Steitibek, and the vessel was used in trade around Cape Horn. During World War I the American government seized the ship from the Germans and it became the Arapahoc, the Shipping Board's merchant training ship. For six years the ship sailed from the West Coast to the Philippines and in 1923 the Alaskan packers bought it and renamed the vessel Star of Falkiand. In the service of the packers, Star of Falkiand set a speed record by sailing between the Bering Sea and San Francisco in fourteen days.

Star of Falkiand left San Francisco for the fishing season on April 25, 1928, under the command of Captain John Widerstrom. On the night of May 22, the ship ran into high winds and fog and struck stern first on rocks at Akun Head near Unimak Pass. The 280 Chinese cannery workers and 40 crewmen spent a night of terror while the ship pounded on the rocks. In the excitement, eight of the Chinese committed suicide. The next morning, the U.S. Lighthouse Service buoy tender Cedar arrived on the scene and began to remove the passengers. The Coast Guard cutter Ha ida arrived shortly thereafter and helped with the rescue. Both vessels managed to take all the passengers off Star of Pa Ikia rid without loss of life.

This rescue is one of the most successful in Coast Guard history It is one of the few instances where the United States Coast Guard and one of its future integrated agencies worked together to perform a major rescue. The Star of Falkia rid was among the last large sailing ships under the American flag. It is appropriate that two government agencies that made the oceans safer for travel were there to participate in this rescue which brought to a close an era of nearly 150 years of service to large passenger sailing vessels. p> Artist: H. Tom Hall

H. Tom Hall's home and studio are in Coventryville, PA.. He spent two years at Tyler School of Fine Art and graduated from the Philadelphia College of Art After two years in the Army he started a free4ance illustration career that has continued for 31-years. He has worked for many publishers illustrating mostly historical subjects. His most recent illustration work has been for National Geographic Magarine and books, Readers Digest Books and Bantam Booka In recent years, he has devoted more time to paintings for galleries and museum shows. His interest in sailing ships staned as a boy when his father was in the Coast Guard Reserve and he built ship models as a hobby.