It’s been five years since the sinking of the Arctic Rose on April 2, 2001. Fifteen crewmen lost their lives in the worst American commercial fishing disaster since 1951. Since 1991, and the implementation of the Commercial Fishing and Vessel Safety Act, there has been a 76 percent decline in commercial fishing fatalities in Alaska, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The reduction of the fishing fleet due to industry consolidation and lower market prices also contributed to fewer deaths.
Feelings about the Arctic Rose disaster are still raw. Expressed here are excepts from a ballad written by John van Amerongen, former editor of the now-defunct Alaska Fishermen’s Journal, and a weathered photo of Arctic Rose crew member Eddie Haynes placed on the memorial at Seattle’s Fishermen’s Terminal.
The Ballad of the Arctic Rose
By John van Amerongen
They came from Montana; they came from Mexico
Headed north to Alaska they were dying to go
Some hardly spoke English but a chance to be free
Lay waiting in Dutch Harbor on the Bering Sea
She was sailing from Dutch Harbor on the Bering Sea
Ninety-two feet from the stern to her nose
She had a name like a beauty: the Arctic Rose
Built down in Mississippi where the shrimp ran pink
They converted her to flatfish, she was safe you’d think
She had a Coast Guard sticker, she was safe you’d think…
Nobody knows how it happened that night
They were hitting on the flatfish, everything was looking bright
But they busted their asses packing ‘em down
And they hit the bunks hard and fell asleep sound
They hit the bunks hard and fell asleep sound
Alone in the Bring Sea with no one around.
She vanished in the night, capsized they said.
The amigos and Montana boys and everyone was dead
She flooded through the open door someone forgot to latch
It poured into the process room and down through the hatch
They were finally on the fish, finally doing fine
But they were headed for the bottom in two minutes time
One body and an empty raft was all they did find…