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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 2, 2002

Friends of rescued dog criss-cross society

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

A member of Hawai'i's royal family and a band of fishermen emerged yesterday among the unsung heroes of the rescue of the ship's dog Hokget.

Regina "Gina" Kawananakoa hired a Gulfstream jet to look for the ship with the abandoned dog. She had nightmares about the plight of the lonely terrier.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Regina Kawananakoa of Kailua, great-granddaughter of Prince David Kawananakoa, spent $15,000 to charter a private jet to search for the dog, and donated another $5,000 to the effort, Pamela Burns of the Hawaiian Humane Society said yesterday.

Burns also said fishermen aboard three boats in Hawai'i's long-line fleet sacrificed $100,000 worth of lost catches to search for Hokget, the 2-year-old terrier left behind when the crew of the derelict fuel tanker Insiko 1907 was rescued April 2.

Kawananakoa's air charter and cash donation represent the largest combined effort by a single person, Burns said.

And the story might not have had a happy ending without the assistance of the fishermen, Burns said.

"It is so gratifying to know that these people would take time out from their work — their livelihood — to help locate an abandoned dog," she said.

The efforts by the Kawananakoa rescue team (seven flew aboard the Gulfstream jet normally chartered by the Nature Conservancy) and by the fishing fleet bring to about $185,000 the amount of cash and contributed time and material spent in the search for the dog left behind when the Norwegian Star cruise ship rescued crew members from the Insiko about 220 miles south of Hawai'i.

The Hawaiian Humane Society and the United States Humane Society committed about $48,000 to hire the tug American Quest to search for the ship and dog.

Who is Hokget?

• Birthplace: Indonesia

• Age: Two years

• Gender: Female

• Education: Raised from two weeks old by Capt. Chung Chin-po

• Job: Ship's pet

• Breed: Terrier mix

• Color: White

• Weight: About 35 pounds

• Disposition: Mischievous, playful, loving and friendly, but shy with strangers; frightened during ordeal at sea, can be "snarly"

• Favorite hiding place: Storage cabinet at front of hull

It cost about $9,600 a day for the tug charter, but after that first search failed, ending on April 7, the tug's owner, American Marine Services, began donating staff time to continue to coordinate the search.

Rusty Nall, a vice president of the company, said donated time probably amounted to about $20,000 — not counting the weekends and personal time that Nall and others gave to the effort.

The dog became known in media coverage around the world as Forgea until the Taiwanese ship captain corrected the Humane Society's phonetic spelling of the Chinese name Hokget, which means good fortune and happiness.

The fishermen became involved after the ship was given up for lost, until an albacore boat, Victoria City, based in American Samoa, spotted what looked like the derelict on April 9.

Short of fuel, Victoria City resumed course after longliners in the area said they would pick up the search.

The first of the Hawai'i fleet, the 70-foot Kawika, broke off a journey to the fishing grounds and Capt. Craig Yaekel and crew searched the area for six days.

With squalls and sea swells hampering the effort, and with dwindling fuel in mind, Yaekel handed off the search to the 50-foot Pacific Fin.

Fin skipper Donald Iman closed in on the tanker after a Coast Guard C-130 spotted it from the air, and Iman put crew member Scott Pukahi aboard the Insiko to search for the dog.

Another longliner, the Marie M, arrived and boarded three of her crew to join the search.

Over the next two days four crew members, and another who actually swam to the tanker from his longliner, roamed the Insiko in search of a dog that now had disappeared.

The fishermen planted a strobe light aboard, left food behind for the dog, and gave the Coast Guard a good reading of the ship's drift rate before resuming course for the fishing grounds.

About a dozen fishermen's families bore the cost of lost catches, since crew pay is based on the value of fish caught, according to Scott Barrows, owner of the Pacific Fin.

"They won't complain. It's part of a fisherman's lot, and searches are readily accepted as a responsibility at sea," Barrows said.

Kawika's owner, Sean Martin, agreed. "We are all neighbors" on the ocean hundreds of miles from home, "and if help is needed, help is provided."

As for the fishermen being unable to capture the dog aboard the Insiko, Barrows acknowledged that "we're best at catching fish."

Hokget willingly came up to crew members from the American Quest when the tug arrived to take the tanker in tow for the U.S. Coast Guard so it wouldn't run aground and dump fuel on Johnston Island's nature preserves.

Kawananakoa of Kailua said she was "having nightmares about the thought of that little creature being left behind on a charred tanker with a dead body and her master and everyone else gone."

So Kawananakoa chartered the aircraft April 24 — the same day the ship and dog were later spotted by a Coast Guard C-130 flying an environmental mission.

The Coast Guard is bringing the Insiko in today. The tanker's fuel will be removed, and the vessel probably will be towed back out to sea to be sunk.