Tuesday, November 1, 2016

STORIS heroes remembered by family of stranded crew

In March of 2015, I received correspondence and an inquiry from Arne Hansen of Herfølge, Roskilde, Denmark. Mr Hansen was interested in information related to STORIS and her involvement with a rescue in August 1947. Though the exact dates in August aren't readily available, since it was generally this time 69 years ago, I want to share this amazing information now as I work to catch up on things… 

“My father left Denmark in the year 1947, as a young man to work in East Greenland (Scorebysund). He went to Greenland in August 1947 with an old schooner (Elizabeth). “Elizabeth” got an engine failure on its way from Iceland and was detected (by) “Storis” and was taken in tow back to Iceland. I got this photo from the meeting and maybe someone from the crew at that time can remember this event and can contribute with some more informations?”

The photograph is amazing and, when sharing it with others to inquire about this incident, also apparently quite rare. 

Some additional information from other correspondence with Mr. Hansen:

“… But as far I know Elizabeth probably left Copenhagen August 1947. Until Juli/August it is also still not possible, due to the ice, to travel by ship to Scoresbysund. The city still only get supplies by ship 2 times a year in these months.

By the way, Elizabeth were (scrapped) in 1958 after a fire in the engineroom...”

Mr. Hansen noted in one of his messages that his father showed admiration and respect for STORIS that such a ship existed and was operating in those waters. 

While looking for information related to Mr. Hansen’s request, I sent a note to Dr. Peter Capelotti of Penn State - Abingdon. Dr. Capelotti is  a world renowned expert on Arctic exploration and a retired USCG MCPO from CG Public Affairs who wrote the commemorative Northwest Passage brochure for the 50th anniversary of the 1957 Northwest Passage Transit. The brochure was an important part of STORIS’ decommissioning acknowledgements. Dr. Capelotti indicated that he did not have any information and finding crew members from that time period would likely be difficult as the most junior crew members would be well into their 90s by now. Dr. Capelotti recommended that I send inquiries to Dr Robert Browning, U.S. Coast Guard Historian. Dr. Browning, in turn, referred me to a junior historian in the office. While the CG officials were interested in the information, a check of their files did not find anything related to the ELIZABETH rescue. 

The producer of the excellent STORIS documentary, Damon Stuebner of Juneau, did have some information in his files related to this incident. He sent a copy of a New York Times story related to an award given to the STORIS’ CO, as well as a press release and accompanying photo from the CG. A letter with additional information was also included. Mr. Hansen is one of the signatories. The text of this letter is as follows:

“My father Kay Jensen has often told us about how he was rescued by the CGC “Storis” in September 1947. As you se on the photo his ship was a wood-Barkentine, “Elisabeth” of Marstal, build in 1919 on the island of Aeroe (danish; Ærø)

In August 1947 it was loaded in Aalborg Denmark with goods for the Danish arctic expedition of Eigil Knuth. As my father Kay tells: “Many of the dock labourers said it was plain suicide to go to East Greenland at that time of the year, because of the ice! Thus warned Elisabeth sailed as scheduled to East Greenland, destination Scoresbysund and Angmarsalik. The ship was caught in the ice in The Arctic Ocean... “Then we had a breakdown of the engine, - the antenna was already iced over and demolished. Here we sat waiting to be either crushed by the ice masses or saved by accident”.

After three or four weeks an American B-17 bomber, Punchboard spotted Elisabeth, The B-17 circled and signaled that they had been seen. The Danes waved and were very happy. Two or three days later the Coast Guard Cutter “Storis” found them.

Within a week the engine was repaired by the technicians of The “Storis”. The antenna was also fixed. My father Kay tells: “The crew of Storis looked at us and our ship as if we were something from the Stone Ages...but they were so kind and very helpful.... “and the American Mess - it was like Christmas eve, - for at hole week we were invited to eat onboard The Storis, my God, we ate the most delicious American meals, we only could dream of at that time in Denmark, were food still was rationed because of the war”

We hereby thank the 1947 Commander and the crew of CGC “Storis” for rescuing us!

We would be thrilled to know if there still is seamen from the “Storis” who remember the Danish ship Elisabeth, or maybe took photographs of us in 1947. Is it possible to find something in the log book of “Storis”?

Best wishes and thank you for a very fine homepage Pens. Sailor Kay Jensen and son, Navy Chaplain Martin Corfix pens. Carpenter Boe “Jonas” Hansen and son, product manager Arne Hansen Seeland, Denmark

(The context of the letter seems to indicate it was a post made to a Web site related to STORIS. I can’t seem to find any postings similar to this, so it’s possible that it could be the now-defunct site that was run by STORIS Veteran Lt. Galen Varon. I’d like to acknowledge that as a possible source, knowing how much STORIS meant to Galen with all the work he did with his sites and writings.)

So while efforts to find additional information related to the rescue were unsuccessful at that point – barring any new information or sources coming to light – it was amazing to see these photos and accounts shared with us.

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