Alaskan fisherman survives 24 hours adrift at sea in plastic tub after storm

Teenager survives 24 hours adrift in chilly seas after boat capsizes in storm

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 September, 2012, 4:11am


A 19-year-old fisherman whose boat capsized in the chilly waters of southern Alaska floated for more than 24 hours in a 1.2-metre plastic fish tub, singing Row, Row, Row Your Boat to keep his spirits up.

Ryan Harris was rescued from his battle with 2.5-metre waves by a coastguard helicopter, which had joined a massive search of the waters around Sitka, Alaska, for Harris and his crewmate, Stonie Huffman, the Sitka Daily Sentinel reported.

Huffman survived by donning a buoyant survival suit, grabbing the lid of one of the fishing bins, and battling the crashing waves to head towards shore.

"It's truly a miracle they survived," Sitka Mountain Rescue director Don Kluting said.

The two men had set out for a routine day of fishing for coho salmon when they were hit with a failed hydraulics system and high waves crashing around their aluminium boat.

Just as they managed to make repairs to the hydraulic system, the boat went down a steep wave that dumped a deluge of water in the bow of the boat. Almost immediately, a second large wave hit the stern, and the two men found themselves in the water, with the boat going down.

Huffman helped Harris climb into a bin, but he couldn't get in one himself, instead grabbing onto a lid of one of the bins and struggling into a survival suit that was drifting nearby. With waves reaching 2.5 metres, it took him two hours to get into the suit, and by that time, the two men were no longer in view of each other.

"I gave myself a pep talk. 'I'm Ryan Hunter Harris, and I'm not going to die here'," Harris told the Sentinel. Having to stay awake and alert to keep the tiny tub from tipping in the high waves, he sang to himself to pass the long hours of darkness.