KODIAK — The U.S. Coast Guard suspended a search for two seal hunters after the men were located by good Samaritans near Newtok, Friday. According to several press releases, the U.S.C.G had been searching for the two men, since Thursday, when they were reported overdue from a seal hunt.
The 45-year-old man and a 21-year-old man were located five miles south of the east tip of Kigigak Island. Coast Guard aircrews, four good Samaritan vessels, and one Civil Air Patrol aircrew searched for more than 40 hours, covering 2,018 square miles.
The search for the hunters began Thursday evening after the Alaska State Troopers notified the Coast Guard 17th District Command Center watchstanders that the men did not return from their hunting trip, as expected. The pair had been last seen the previous Tuesday departing in a 16-foot skiff from Newtok and transiting to Kigigak Island in Hazen Bay, and were due back the same day.
Due to flooded waters, the 45-year-old man thought he turned into a river, but once low tide came, the 18-foot skiff became stuck in a muddy area. The men used moss to stay dry and a fire to keep warm.
A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak HC-130 Hercules aircrew and an MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew along with a Newtok village administrator were launched, Thursday, and searched areas where the men could be hunting. Good Samaritan vessel crews quickly joined the search.
A press release stated that search conditions included 16 mph winds, two-foot seas, ten-mile visibility, an air temperature of 41 degrees and a water temperature of 46 degrees.
On Friday, the missing men saw a vessel's antenna and decided to fire a gun to hail the crew. Upon doing so, the good Samaritan crew heard it and went to the location of the sound. The men were found in good condition and were returned to Newtok.
“We are fortunate that these men were located,” said Chief Petty Officer Michael Haselden, Coast Guard 17th District search and rescue operator for the case, via news release. “Through the coordinated efforts with the Newtok village administrator, the good Samaritan boat crews and the Civil Air Patrol, these men were returned to their loved ones.”
The Coast Guard encourages all hunters to carry extra food and water, an emergency position indicating radio beacon, a satellite phone, warm clothes, life jackets if hunting on the water, and to notify friends or family of specific hunting locations along with an expected return time.