The Deadliest Catch 2009 King Crab Season got off the a very rough start as a major Arctic storm descended on the fishing grounds. In just the second episode of the 2009 season the crab fishermen were pitted against mother nature’s fury as the fleet was battered with hurricane force winds and 35 foot seas. With time always a factor the captains continued to fish despite the harsh conditions. The crews worked non-stop, some up to 40 hours in a stretch trying to bring in the crab before the storm made conditions too dangerous to be on deck. The Time Bandit was on the crab and had the lead with more than 30,000 pounds of crab, a comfortable lead over the Northwestern with 19,000 pounds. As the crab boats fought to bring in the crab 900 miles to the west a crew of a cod fishing boat were fighting for their lives.
At just past midnight, as the storm ravaged the Bering Sea, a faint mayday call came across the radio. The Katmai, a 93 foot cod fishing vessel reported they had lost propulsion and were taking on water. The Coast Guard immediately went into action, dispatching C-130 Hercules, a Coast Guard Cutter and a Jayhawk helicopter. Unfortunately, even flying at better than 200 miles per hour, the helicopter was a seven hour flight from the position of the distress call. The rescuers flew into the teeth of the storm which was now 1,000 miles wide and packed 65 knot winds.
The Katmai had eleven people on board. There only hope was to either reach a life raft, or to have time to put on a survival suit. With the seven hour flight time, the survival suits would be at their limit in the 41 degree water. Without a survival suit a person has only minutes to live once they enter the water. With the temperature of the water instant hypothermia sets in and the core body temperature drops to deadly levels within 3 to 4 minutes. If the Katmai went down quickly, the crew had little hope for survival.
Arriving on the scene the Jayhawk helicopter found the distress beacon, but no sign of the ship or her crew. Following the wind and currents the helicopter found a debris trail including the ships supply of rope and fishing gear. They then found a partially inflated life raft, but it was empty, apparently the crew had not had the time or opportunity to reach it before the ship went down. A short time later the helicopter spotted a bright orange survival suit in the water. They sent out their rescue swimmer and recovered the suit which held the body of one of the Katmai crew. They were too late, the freezing temperatures had been fatal and the Bering Sea claimed yet another victim.
The episode ended as the Jayhawk continued its search for the remaining ten crew members. With the loss of life the crews of the crab fleet were reminded once again just how dangerous their profession truly is. Each captain and every crewman knew the risk, yet they venture out onto the sea time and time again in search of crab, the deadliest catch.