On the Edge of Survival

A Shipwreck, a Raging Storm, and the Harrowing Alaskan Rescue That Became a Legend

Spike Walker

St. Martin's Press

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The Selendang Ayu, a Malaysian cargo ship carrying soybeans from Seattle, Washington to China ran aground off the coast of western Alaska's Aleutian Islands on December 8, 2004 during a brutal storm, leading to one of the most harrowing Coast Guard rescue missions of all time. 

Two Coast Guard HH-60J Jayhawk helicopters lifted off immediately from Air Station Kodiak during the driving storm in an effort to rescue the ship's 18 crewmembers before it broke apart and sank in the freezing Alaskan waters. Nine of the crew were lifted from the ship and dropped aboard the Coast Guard cutter Alex Haley, which was stationed nearby. But during attempts to save the last eight crewmembers, one of the Jayhawks was engulfed by a rogue wave that broke over the bow of the ship. When its engines flamed out from ingesting water, the Jayhawk crashed into the sea. The seven crew members from the ship who had been hoisted into the aircraft, along with the chopper's three-man crew plunged into the bitterly cold ocean where hypothermia began to set in immediately.  In yet another daring rescue that night, the chopper HH-65B Dolphin from the Alex Haley recovered the three-man Coast Guard crew and one of the crewmembers from the ship who had been on the aircraft, then returned to rescue the Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer and ship's master from the Selendang Ayu, which had broken in half during their absence. Though eight men died, the Coast Guard crew would all be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their actions in saving ten men that night under truly horrible conditions.

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ONE
Slammed right and left by battering, 60 mph wind gusts, blinded by snow squalls at the leading edge of an Arctic storm, search and rescue pilot Lieutenant David Neel was doing his best, early on that cold December morning in 2004, to shake off the sudden bouts of vertigo and keep his H-60 helicopter on course and in the air. Flying along over the gray and white, foam- streaked waters of the Bering Sea, Neel maintained an altitude of just three hundred feet, and no more, to prevent icing as the tall, clutching storm waves lumbered past below.

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About the Author

Spike Walker

SPIKE WALKER spent more than ten seasons aboard some of the most successful crab boats in the Alaskan fleet, and rode out one of the worst storms in Alaska’s history. He is the author of Working on the Edge, Nights of Ice and Coming Back Alive. Spike lives in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

Spike Walker

Spike Walker

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Available Formats and Book Details

On the Edge of Survival
A Shipwreck, a Raging Storm, and the Harrowing Alaskan Rescue That Became a Legend
Spike Walker

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
St. Martin's Press
September 2010
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429989039
ISBN10: 1429989033
288 pages
$9.99

Hardcover

Hardcover
St. Martin's Press
September 2010
Hardcover
ISBN: 9780312286347
ISBN10: 0312286341
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 288 pages, Plus one 8-page b&w photo insert
$24.99

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Griffin
October 2011
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312604592
ISBN10: 0312604599
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 304 pages, Plus one 8-page black-and-white photograph insert
$14.99
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