Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, April 13, 2002

Tanker, dog search resumes

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Hawaiian Humane Society renewed its efforts yesterday to save Forgea, the 2-year-old dog left aboard the disabled Indonesian tanker, Insiko 1907, after its crew — minus one member killed in an engine room fire — was rescued on April 2.

At the same time, federal officials continued to comb O'ahu for nine of the rescued crewmen, now fugitives, who vanished shortly after they were left on their own at a Waikiki hotel on April 3. The missing crewmen were all from China.

On April 5 the Humane Society launched a $50,000 sea-and-air mission to find the dog, only to call off the effort two days later when the company hired to conduct the search, American Marine Corp., concluded that the tanker had either gone down or strayed beyond the 14,800-square-mile search area.

The effort to save the dog drew worldwide attention, both from animal lovers and those who criticized it as a waste of money.

But after the Mainland fishing boat Victoria City reported spotting the tanker about 400 miles south of O'ahu on Tuesday, hopes were again raised that the dog could be saved. The Humane Society has asked the search company, with technical assistance from the Coast Guard, to alert vessels in the area to be on the lookout for the tanker and to contact the Coast Guard if they see it.

Lt. DesaRae Atnip, a Coast Guard spokeswoman, said that the Victoria City sighting was in line with where the Coast Guard would expect the tanker to have been on Tuesday. Figuring that the Insiko is drifting almost due west, it should be roughly 450 miles south-southwest of O'ahu by this morning, she said.

Because the tanker would be in international waters if found, the Coast Guard has no jurisdiction, and would make no attempt to board the ship or rescue the animal. However, Atnip said if any vessel spots the tanker, the Humane Society would ask it to consider rescuing the dog.

In a statement released by the Humane Society yesterday, American Marine Corp. spokes-

man Rusty Nall said his company is already in contact with one fishing boat, which "wishes to remain anonymous," that is en route to the area and is expected to be there by today.

Nall said the original $50,000 fee is based on "the daily charter rate" for a tugboat with a five-man crew. He said his company subcontracted the search surveillance plane, and is coordinating the continuing search effort at no extra charge to the Humane Society.

"It's not a money issue," he said. "In fact, we're not charging for any additional time right now. We're trying to doing it as economically as possible. It is very difficult to find a vessel at sea."

Eve Holt, director of community relations for the Humane Society, said the organization believes that if the animal has water it could still be alive. She said recent squalls in the area of the tanker could have provided adequate drinking water.

Victoria City Capt., Don Knottingham, who arrived at Pier 35 in Honolulu yesterday, said he picked the tanker up on his radar Tuesday night and got to less than a mile of it. He detected the distinctive smell of a tanker, but said it was virtually impossible to see the black tanker beneath a pitch-black, overcast and moonless sky.

"It was too dark," said Knottingham, who was on board the 85-foot jig troller with his girlfriend, Vicky Marshall, when he detected the tanker on his radar.

"I couldn't get close to it," he said. "It's too dangerous at night. I didn't hear any barking. I think I would have heard barking if there had been any."

Knottingham, who had cut his hand badly before the tanker encounter, said it would have been foolhardy to make a one-handed attempt to board an out-of-control tanker on the open sea in pitch darkness.

While the effort to locate the tanker and the dog continued, Donald Radcliffe, district director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said his agency still has no idea where the fugitive crew members are hiding. They may have gone to Chinatown and blended in, he said.

"Or, they're stashed in someone's garage or apartment or something," said Radcliffe. "If they didn't have friends when they got here, they sure got in touch with some right away. They are being assisted, there's no doubt about that."